Veracruz-Style Whitefish

>> Friday, January 30, 2015

Veracruz-Style Whitefish

While Joe and I haven't been deep-sea fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, it's definitely on our life lists. In fact, we'd use any excuse to be back floating in the Gulf of Mexico. Joe has a fishing legacy to live up to: his dad caught a 75-pound mahi-mahi on a trip off the coast of Veracruz, a seaside community. The fish gave him a long battle before he pulled it into the boat.

I like to imagine the catch as a scene from Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea", his dad dragging the fish on a line through night and day, eating a bit of raw fish for his strength, until he brought it ashore. It's is much easier to imagine this when I wasn't there to see it happen. We'll see if our own deep-sea fishing lives up Hemingway's writing!

This traditional tangy and tomatoey dish sprinkled with pickled yellow güero peppers, olives, and capers is often made with red snapper. In Mexican restaurants, waiters have served us an entire (small) snapper to share: scales, eyeballs, tail and all. In the Midwest US, snapper can be a little pricey, so we use tilapia or pollock when we make this recipe. I'm sure that's traditional enough, right?


For the fish

1 1/2 pounds fish fillets, such as Tilapia, Snapper, Pollock, or Swai
4 cloves of garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lime (about 3 tbsp) plus 1 tsp lime zest
1 tbsp sea salt

For the sauce

2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup onion, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
8 oz tomato sauce
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
1/4 cup pickled yellow güero or jalapeno peppers, thinly sliced
1/4 cup green olives with pimientos, sliced
2 tbsp green capers
2 tsp Mexican oregano
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp ground cumin
2 bay leaves

Veracruz-Style Whitefish tomato sauce


Rub the fillets with the garlic, lime juice, and salt. Allow it to marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Warm the oil in a frying pan. When it is shimmering, add the onion and saute for 2-3 minutes, until slightly translucent. Add the garlic and saute for another minute. Stir in the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer on medium-low for 15-20 minutes. Remove the bay leaves.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Spray a baking pan with oil. Spoon a little of the sauce into the bottom of the pan. Place the fish in a single layer in the pan, then cover with the sauce. Bake uncovered for 20-35 minutes, until the sauce is thick and bubbly and the fish is cooked through, white and flaky. Serve with the sauce spooned over the fillets, and a side of white rice, or yellow rice with pigeon peas.

Serves 4-6.


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