At our house we’ve been enjoying a few dolphin (mahi-mahi) lately. One of my favorite ways to prepare this delicious fish is to grill it with barbecue sauce. I learned to love this dish while living with my grandma Helen – it was one of her specialties. She was born in Miami in 1913 and was an excellent pioneer cook. As a young woman, I was lucky enough to glean a few of her secrets while helping in the kitchen.
About this same time, I started dating a fisherman, Walter, who invited me out fishing one day, along with his buddy, Rick. Walter happened to be house-sitting at the time, so that’s where we decided to grill up the catch at the end of our successful day.
I obtained the ingredients list for the barbecue sauce and began scrounging for these items in the unfamiliar kitchen. I soon located everything but the honey – the last ingredient to go in. The sauce was simmering nicely on the stove and the aroma was tantalizing. But I still needed the honey. Of all places, I found it in the fridge. The sauce was finished off with three heaping tablespoons of honey and I licked the spoon. And that’s where things went horribly wrong.
Instead of the rewarding goodness of sweet, sticky honey, the gunk on that spoon was thick and foul with an oh, so familiar taste. As a child my father had forced me to gag down a tablespoon of cod liver oil every morning before school. It was horrid and I hated it and finally one day I rebelled, refusing to ever let it pass my lips again. Ever. Until now, that is. I retched and spat it all out into the trash and then vigorously washed out my mouth. I could still taste it. Downing a cold beer, I attempted to drown the disgusting oily fishiness that now permeated every corner of my mouth. Who is wicked enough to store cod liver oil in a honey jar?
I dismally eyed the beautiful sauce, so carefully prepared, into which the cod liver oil had now melded. I threw my head back and let out a frustrated wail. There was nothing to do but resignedly stir it all up and see how bad it was, or if there was any hope of salvaging this culinary disaster. And what happened next was just crazy.
It was delicious. I couldn’t believe it, but it was really, really good. I called the guys in to see what they thought. They loved it.
And so we threw the dolphin on the grill and mopped on Grandma’s sauce, sans the honey and loaded with the rich healthy goodness of a generous dollop (or three) of cod liver oil.
Here’s my grandma’s recipe. I leave it up to you to substitute the honey with cod liver oil or not. I will confess I never could bring myself to do it again.
Helen’s BBQ Sauce:
2 tbsp real butter
1 small onion finely chopped
1/2 cup celery finely chopped
3/4 cup water
1 cup ketchup
2 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp lime juice (key lime if you have it)
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp honey
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Sauté the first three ingredients in a skillet for a few minutes until the onions turn clear. Add remaining ingredients and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly. Baste both sides of the fish with the sauce as it grills, turning it as necessary. Be sure to remove the fillets as soon as they have cooked through. Serve immediately, passing any remaining sauce. Enjoy!