Braised Grouper Cheeks with Crabmeat Risotto, Roasted Cipollini Onion and Mango Caviar

Ben Fidelak
Braised Grouper Cheeks

Chef Ben Fidelak's passion for cooking was sparked at an early age while working as a line cook in his father's restaurant. He opened Maison Louisiane Catering in the fall of 2001. Since then, he has honed his culinary focus, creating signature dishes using inspiration from various cultures, while infusing a Southern flair. He is...


Crab Stock

3 lbs. gumbo crabs

2 gal. water

3 medium onions, halved

8 ribs celery

4 carrots

1 Tbsp. pepper

1 Tbsp. salt

1 Tbsp. cayenne pepper

Marinated Grouper

Juice from 4 blood oranges

Juice from 4 navel oranges

1 1/2 cups walnut oil

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

2 shallots, finely diced

1/2 tsp. granulated garlic

1/2 tsp. oregano

1/4 cup agave honey

2 Tbsp. Sriracha

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

10 grouper cheeks


1 Tbsp. corn starch

3 Tbsp. water

1 Tbsp. walnut oil (for cast iron pan)

Crabmeat Risotto

2 cups jumbo lump crabmeat

8 cups crab stock

3 cups green onions, chopped

1 3/4 cups spinach, chopped

1/2 cup garlic, diced

3/4 cup sage, chopped

3/4 cup sunflower sprout leaves

1/2 cup cashews, chopped

1 tsp. granulated garlic

1 tsp. black pepper

Juice of 1 lemon

3 Tbsp. butter

2 cups Arborio rice

Mango Caviar

2 mangoes, peeled and sliced

2 cups mango nectar

1 cup mango liqueur

2 Tbsp. sugar

0.5 % calcium chloride solution

Sodium Alginate (by weight)

Cipollini Onions

5 Cipollini onions

3 Tbsp. almond oil

2 Tbsp. Kosher salt

Chipotle Mango Sauce

3 mangoes, peeled and sliced

2 chipotle peppers in adobo, chopped

Juice from 1 lime

3/4 cup mango liqueur


5 purple endives



Crab Stock

Combine all ingredients in large stock pot and simmer for about 1 hour. Drain liquid through a colander and reserve.

Marinated Grouper and Slurry

Combine all marinade ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir thoroughly. Add grouper cheeks and occasionally baste while marinating for 30 – 40 minutes. Preheat a sauté pan and a cast iron pan over medium-high heat.  Add grouper cheeks and braising liquid to first pan and cook for approximately 2 -3 minutes per side, basting occasionally. Add walnut oil to the cast iron pan and transfer cheeks, cooking for 30 seconds per side or until slightly browned. Reduce heat on braising liquid and add slurry. Mix thoroughly, reduce heat and simmer until thickened.

Crabmeat Risotto

In a large pot, heat crab stock to a simmer. In a medium sauce pan, melt butter and sauté garlic until just starting to brown. Add 2 cups of green onion, 1/2 cup of sage, 1/2 cup sunflower sprout leave, and 1 cup spinach. Reserve remaining greens to be added later. Sauté until all greens are wilted, approximately 5 – 6 minutes. Add cashews and rice, 2 cups hot crab stock until mixture is covered. Simmer, stirring almost constantly until liquid is almost all absorbed, add more stock and repeat. Add granulated garlic and pepper. Continue adding crab stock, simmering and stirring until nearly desired consistency is reached. Risotto should be creamy and soft. Add remaining greens and fold in crab meat and lemon juice. Add 1/4 cup crab stock and gently stir.

Mango Caviar

Combine mangoes, nectar, sugar, and liqueur in a blender. Blend on high until smooth. Remove and weigh. Calculate 0.5 % sodium alginate solution. (E.g. if you have 500g mango mixture, you will use 2.5g sodium alginate). Return mixture to blender and add sodium alginate slowly, while mixing. In a separate bowl, make a 0.5 % calcium chloride solution. Mix with blender and let stand. Using a caviar maker, add mango mixture to calcium bath. After about 2 minutes, remove caviar and rinse in a bowl of clean water.

Cipollini Onions

Peel onions and cut off top (not root end). Turnover and slice in tiny wedges from bottom to top, leaving the root intact. Flip over, drizzle with almond oil and roast at 350°F for 15 minutes. Sprinkle liberally with salt (onion should have opened like a flower while roasting). Bake for an additional 10 minutes. Broil 2- 3 minutes or until tips of onions start to char.

Chipotle Mango Sauce

In a blender, combine all ingredients and mix on high until smooth. Transfer to small sauce pan and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 6 minutes.


Place 5 purple endives in a 200°F oven for approximately 15 minutes (they should not be warm, not wilted).

To serve, plate some risotto and top with grouper. Garnish with mango caviar, onion, mango sauce, and endive.

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