Gone fishing for a good grilled sandwich

September 12, 1999|By Rob Kasper

I could live without lettuce, but it is hard for me to imagine life without bacon and tomatoes. love the basic BLT.

However, if you find yourself with a lot of ripe tomatoes and a hot charcoal fire on your hands, you might want to try variations of the classic bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich.

I decided to try putting grilled fish fillets on a BLT. The recipe called for mahi-mahi, a fish with a great name and wonderful texture. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to find in local fish markets.

I substituted swordfish, following the advice of one of my favorite fishmongers, Tommy Chagouris, at Nick's Inner Harbour Seafood in the Cross Street Market.

The success of this sandwich hinges on several factors. The fish has to be cooked correctly, grilled until the flesh is opaque. If you grill it too long, your BLT becomes a VTS, a Very Tough Sandwich.

You also have to spice up the fillet. You do this by coating the fish with a reasonably fiery mixture of chili powder and garlic. Bland fish makes a dull sandwich.

Next, you have to goose the mayonnaise, livening it up with paprika, onion, lime juice and pepper.

Then, you have to use bread that has backbone. The recipe called for using sourdough bread, but I used our basic homemade bread, which I bake twice a week. My bread slices well and has enough substance to withstand being cooked on the barbecue grill.

Grilling bread is not difficult, as long as you pay attention. One or two minutes per side is usually enough.

If you lose track of time and keep the bread over a hot fire longer than 2 minutes, your bread isn't toast, it is cinders.

Mahi-Mahi BLT Serves 4

cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup finely chopped yellow onion

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

4 slices bacon, cut in half crosswise

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

4 mahi-mahi fillets (or other meaty fish, such as swordfish), skin on, each about 8 ounces, 1 inch thick

vegetable oil for brushing cooking grate

8 slices bread, each 1/2 -inch thick

4 romaine lettuce leaves

8 slices tomato

Prepare a charcoal fire, medium hot.

In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, onion, lime juice, paprika and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

Cook bacon until browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to paper towels and drain.

In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, chili powder and garlic. Brush this mixture on the flesh side on the fillets. Lightly brush the cooking grate with vegetable oil. Place the fillets, flesh side down, directly over medium heat and grill, turning once, until flesh is opaque, 10 to 13 minutes. Remove skin before serving.

When the fish is almost cooked, grill the bread directly over medium heat, until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes a side. Evenly spread one side of the bread with the refrigerated mayonnaise mixture.

To build each sandwich, start with a slice of toasted bread, a lettuce leaf, two tomato slices, 2 half slices of bacon, the fillet, then the other slice of toasted bread.

-- From "Weber's Art of the Grill" (Chronicle Books, 1999)

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