Lightly pan seared in coconut oil and served over a bed of jasmine rice perfumed with freshly grated coconut, this Grouper with Mango Salsa is an island recipe that brings back memories of a time long ago.

My Grouper with Mango Salsa features fish freshly caught from Gulf waters. (All photos credit: George Graham)
My Grouper with Mango Salsa features fish freshly caught from Gulf waters. (All photos credit: George Graham)

Ask my daughter Lauren, and she will tell you the best family vacation she’s ever taken was to Ambergris Cay in Belize.  Years ago, we joined our good friends Odie and Linda Terry along with their daughter Amanda for a week’s stay at Casa Gonzo, a villa on the Caribbean owned by Austin-based singer-songwriter Jerry Jeff Walker.   Just down the road from San Pedro town, this spectacular location was our base point in exploring and sampling the tastes of a colorful island.

The people of Belize are a cross-cultural mix much like the Cajun and Creole folks of Acadiana.  We were impressed with the friendly, laid-back vibe of everyone we met, as well as the welcoming spirit they greeted us with.  They seemed to want to share their world with us including the delicious food of the island.

Our housekeeper Maria and her husband Armando were the caretakers of Casa Gonzo.  Every morning, Maria baked her scratch biscuits and served them with a dollop of freshly churned butter slathered with mango preserves.  I asked her about the unusual, but tasty, flavor of her biscuits and she pointed to her husband Armando clinging high atop a palm tree in the distance and said, “coconut.”  One of Armando’s jobs on the property was to harvest the ripe coconuts before they matured and fell on the next guest’s noggin’.  Cracking and grating the meat while reserving the water inside was a natural source of intense flavor that went into much of her cooking.

We asked if she would cook dinner for us that night and to surprise us with whatever local dish she thought we would like.  Maria didn’t disappoint as she set a spread on the outdoor veranda that was a celebration of Belizean cuisine.  This unassuming lady could cook in any five-star restaurant and teach most any chef a thing or two.

My new favorite: Supreme white jasmine rice. Give it a try.
My favorite: Supreme white jasmine rice. Give it a try.

As usual, my recipe will add a Louisiana touch to the island-inspired ingredients in this dish.  Fresh Gulf grouper paired with coconut and sweet Louisiana jasmine rice from my friends at Supreme Rice just down the road in Crowley celebrate the great flavors we share with Belize and many other Caribbean cultures.

I believe that if you look deep beyond the surface of any culture, you can find those things that you have in common.  Food unites us all and helps us discover that we are much more alike than different.  This dish is that perfect link to another place and time.

Belize Casa Gonzo Grahams
We will forever remember our Belizean paradise at Casa Gonzo.
Pan Seared Grouper with Mango Salsa and Coconut Rice
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Recipe by:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
Salsa
  • 1 cup finely diced mango
  • ½ cup finely diced red bell pepper
  • ½ cup finely diced red onion
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • ½ cup unsweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds removed and finely diced
  • 4 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Rice
  • 2 cups white Louisiana jasmine rice, such as Supreme
  • 2½ cups water
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • ½ cup unsweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 cup chopped mango
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Grouper
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 4 (6-ounce) grouper fillets
  • 1 teaspoon Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here
  • 4 lime wedges, for garnish
  • 4 sprigs cilantro, for garnish
Instructions
Salsa
  1. In a glass mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir together, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour to chill.

Rice
  1. In a large pot with a lid over high heat and water. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook undisturbed until the rice is done, about 20 minutes.
  2. Turn off the heat, lift the lid, and stir in the peas, cilantro, coconut, and mango. Season with salt and pepper to your taste. Cover and keep warm until serving.

Grouper
  1. In a skillet over medium-high heat, add the coconut oil.
  2. Check the grouper fillets and remove any remaining bones. Sprinkle lightly with Cajun seasoning and place in the hot pan. Sear on one side until browned on top and then gently turn. Continue cooking until the fish is cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  3. For serving, add a bed of rice to each plate and top with a fish fillet. Spoon over the salsa and serve more on the side. Garnish with fresh limes and cilantro.
Notes
Be sure to check your fish fillets for pin bones and remove them with a pair of pliers. Get the unsweetened coconut since the mango will provide plenty of sweetness. Go easy on the Cajun seasoning and let the freshness of the fish shine. Be sure to instruct your guests to squeeze fresh lime juice on their fish; I love the bright citrus flavor it brings.
Tropical flavors blend deliciously in this Pan Seared Grouper with Mango Salsa and Coconut Rice
Tropical flavors blend deliciously in this Pan Seared Grouper with Mango Salsa and Coconut Rice

YOUR SEAT AT THE TABLE:  If you like this cooking story and recipe then accept my personal invitation to subscribe by entering your email at the bottom or top right of this page.  It’s quick and painless.  You will receive an email alert and be the first to see when new cooking stories and recipes are added.  Thanks, George.