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The Results of the Spicy Fish Rub-Off!


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The Results of the Spicy Fish Rub-Off!

galleygirl | Apr 20, 2002 08:21 PM

Several months ago, I sent out a plea on this board for help in replicating the Blackened Fish Rub that a portly New Orleans chef sells in little bottles for about $4...I had a fabulous rub for salmon(see bottom recipe) but I needed one for catfish that was as good as those tiny bottles..

Well, the hounds responded! Of course, right after buying all the fresh herbs in bulk to do a controlled horizontal testing, I got the flu, and spice rubbed fish had NO appeal for me for about a month...Then I got lazy, and started using the rubs, one at a time, whenever I needed one...But thanks are long overdue, as well as the results of my research...A bunch of people posted with their favorite spice rubs, but the ones that came closest to what I was searching for came from Katie, (, Shaebones, (, and Nancy Berry, (

I tested the three against each other, with these controls...
1) All fresh bulk spices, from my favorite purveyor, Homsey's in Westwood Ma.
2) Salt was kosher salt
3) 3 fresh, dressed, skinned catfish
4) Non-stick pan with a small amount of canola oil

Okay, they were all winners!! :) No, really, if any of these was the only response I got, I could have used it for the next ten years and been overjoyed...But as a chowhound, I DID have to minutely dissect each one..You'll notice there's an lot of overlap of ingredients, and a lot of it is based on 3 colors of peppers, salt and paprika....

I felt that Katie's was closest to the portly chef's....High percentage of paprika to salt was responsible for the color, but the salt was still pretty apparent, (a good thing!), the cayenne percentage was high, and the flavors pretty basic---hot, tasty and salty!
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion pepper
1 tablespoon cayenne
1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
1 tablespoon dried leaf thyme

I thought Shaebones' rub had a lot of versatility for other white-fleshed fish, as well as the catfish. Without the onion and oregano, the thyme came thru, and sweetened things up. Of course, with these rubs, sweetness is a relative term!
2 parts black pepper
2 parts white pepper,
2 parts red pepper
1 part salt
1 part basil
1 part papprika
1 part thyme
1 part garlic powder

I have to say, the one that I have been using the most is Nancy Berry's...The big difference was the addition of dry mustard, which had a searing, kind of clarifying effect...Not overpowering, but for some reason, the mustard made each of the other spices seem more intense..Despite the large amount of salt (this recipe probably makes 2X the amount of the other 2) the heaping helpings of the other herbs make for a flavorful intensity that works with a lot of different fish...(like i said, I've been dipping into them before I did the comparison...) I've liked it on seared, almost raw tuna, sliced to dip in soy sauce and wasabi, on the catfish, and on salmon...
Nancy Berry:
5 tablespoons salt
4 tablespoons onion powder
4 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons cayenne
2 tablespoons dry mustard
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons black pepper
1 tablespoon white pepper

Altho, I still like my original for salmon, because I think the cumin goes so well with it...
1 1/2 T. ground cumin
2 T.chili powder
1/2 T. cayenne pepper
1 T. kosher salt
1/2 T. black pepper

Anyway, thank you, everyone! I didn't want you guys to think you responded so quickly, and so thoroughly, and I hadn't taken it all very seriously! I'm going to retire with a bottle of cheap white wine now, and nurture the afterglow of a plethora of pepper!

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