Grilled Mahi Mahi with Lemon-Vermouth Butter Sauce

We really like fish – to the extent that some may consider it a bit of an obsession. But we’re O.K. with that, because life is short and fish is awesome.

Some of our absolute favorite recipes have resulted from random trips to our favorite fish market, snapping up whatever irresistible things become our “catch of the day,” and then figuring out what to do with them when we get home.

I found this ridiculously simple recipe while looking for something to accent a particularly gorgeous mahi mahi fillet that recently followed us home… The grilled mahi mahi fillet over which the velvety sauce is draped in the photo, to be exact! The sauce accents the fish, rather than overpowering it. Because it’s so flavorful you don’t need a lot, but if you find yourself drizzling more over each bite, you’re definitely not alone.

While I had my heart set on lemon risotto as a side for the magnificent mahi, I found that I was out of rice after I started simmering and sautéing the ingredients for my risotto. So, the random package of pearl couscous in my pantry that I’d been shuffling aside for several months finally got to come out and play. WHY I waited so long to make it is anyone’s guess, but I fell in love with couscous all over again – if only for the excuse to drench it with this lemony goodness as often as possible. (Easy recipe for Lemon Cipollini Couscous in the Notes below.)

I like to find multiple ways of using things, and this sauce is definitely versatile enough for that. In fact, it’s making a repeat appearance on some fresh grilled salmon that we’re serving for our holiday dinner later this week.

This elegant little sauce would be delicious with any fish, really, however you prefer to prepare it… but it also compliments shrimp dishes, grilled or roasted chicken, red potatoes, asparagus, green beans, and carrots beautifully. And if some of the sauce happens to make its way to your steamed rice or fresh greens, I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy those pairings just as much.

Did I mention that the sauce also re-heats beautifully? Yes, you can make it ahead for dinner parties, and your guests will think you’re an over-the-moon amazing cook. Take it where you can… Smile graciously and say, ‘Thank you.’ No need to reveal that you didn’t actually learn to make this in French culinary school.

And, if you somehow manage to have some sauce leftover – or if you double the recipe to ensure a little extra sauce like I do – I promise you’ll have no trouble finding ways to re-enjoy it.



Grilled Mahi Mahi with Lemon-Vermouth Butter Sauce
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
The sauce pairs wonderfully with all kinds of fish. It’s surprisingly delicate and deliciously bright, and can be made ahead for dinner parties as it re-heats beautifully.
Recipe from:
For the fish:
  • Prepare grill for medium to medium-high heat.
  • Brush or rub both sides of the fish with oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Place fish - skin-side down first - on the grill for about five minutes or until edges begin to turn opaque. Then, carefully turn the fish and finish cooking to an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Here are some additional notes from our favorite fish market for perfectly cooked fish. *Note: For larger fillets, use two spatulas and gently flip the fillet top-to-bottom, versus end-to-end.
For the Sauce:
  • Makes about ½ cup
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest (the zest of half a lemon)
  • 3 tablespoons vermouth (I use Gallo Extra Dry for sauces)
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk (or cream, if you prefer)
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pats
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • A pinch of sea salt - to taste, if needed
  1. In a sauce pan, add lemon juice, lemon zest, vermouth and red wine vinegar. Whisk together and allow mixture to reduce slightly for 8 – 10 minutes over medium heat.
  2. Reduce heat to low and add the milk (or cream) while whisking. It may curdle a bit at first, but the curdle will quickly disappear as you whisk.
  3. When the mixture is smooth, add the granulated sugar and whisk again until completely combined. Begin adding the butter, one pat at a time, making sure to allow each pat to melt completely before adding the next. Whisking often, and simmer the sauce until it thickens slightly – about 10 minutes or so. Salt to taste, if needed.
  4. Keep warm until served, and serve warm. Garnish with fresh, chopped Italian parsley.
Cook's Notes:
*Lemon Cipollini Couscous (I used 1, 8.8 oz. package of Osem brand Israeli/Pearl Couscous, which makes about 6, 1-cup servings): Add 2 cups dry couscous to 2½ cups boiling low-sodium chicken broth (or water, per package directions). Stir well and cover for 8 – 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Finely chop two Cipollini onions and sauté until translucent with 1½ tablespoons unsalted butter and 1 teaspoon lemon zest. Spoon the mixture into the cooked couscous and stir well to combine. Serve immediately.

Sauce recipe adapted from Eclectic Recipes.


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