Pan Roasted Fish in Aromatic Green Pipián Sauce

Still on the Mexican kick, day 2. Used the leftover tomatillo sauce from yesterday as the base for a luscious dish. Based on a Rick Bayless recipe for salmon, but I used frozen barramundi instead. The sauce is so good it would probably work with pretty much anything from scrod to mackerel. Not difficult, and quick if you pre-make the tomatillo sauce. Very elegant and super delicious, the combination of flavours is exotic yet subtle. Truly a restaurant quality dish. 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups green tomatillo sauce
  • 1-2 Serrano chiles, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds, raw
  • 1 fresh Hoya Santa leaf, chopped
  • 1 TB salted butter 
  • 1 lb fish
  • 1 poblano, seared and sliced into strips for rajas

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 425F
  2. Melt 1 tsp butter in saucepan. Add sesame seeds and stir to coat and cook over medium heat until they start to colour.
  3. Add chopped chile and Hoya Santa and cook until sesame seeds are lightly brown.
  4. Add tomatillo sauce and simmer gently for a few minutes.
  5. Meanwhile,  melt 1 tsp butter in oven proof [cast iron] skillet or baking dish. Add fish, dot with remaining 1 tsp butter and put in oven. Cook until center reads 145F on instant thermometer, or to desired doneness. 
  6. Transfer sauce to blender and purée until smooth. Be careful because it’s hot. This step can be done with the cold sauce to avoid burns.
  7. Return sauce to pan and simmer while fish cooks.
  8. Spoon sauce onto plates, then add fish and top with more sauce. 
  9. Garnish with poblano rajas, crema Mexicana, and pickled red onion. Serve with warm corn tortillas. 

Notes

  • Use epazote, cilantro, and oregano as a substitute for the Hoya Santa. 
  • For a milder sauce use a seeded jalapeño instead of the Serrano. 
  • For dairy free, use olive oil and leave off the cream. 
  • For extra flavour, grease skillet with lard or bacon grease and then top fish with butter. 

  

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Mexican Shrimp

Just got yesterday from my first trip to Mexico. It was a dive trip at an all-inclusive resort on Cozumel, so the food was plentiful but not spectacular. Mine is better and aside from the refried beans and fresh habanero hot sauce, a bunch more authentic. But not this recipe, which I made up as I went along. 

Ingredients

  • 1 lb shrimp
  • 1 green banana
  • 1 green squash
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 fresh chilaca pepper, sliced thin
  • 2 sprigs fresh epazote, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 TB butter
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp tamarind paste
  • 2 TB bitter orange juice
  • Tomatillo sauce, mild
  • Crema Mexicana

Directions

  1. Par-boil banana until almost cooked through (poke with tip of knife to test doneness). 
  2. Preheat a large heavy frying pan over medium-high heat, add olive oil and butter.
  3. When butter is frothy, add shrimp, followed by garlic, then vegetables.
  4. Stir to cook evenly, add seasonings, and stir to coat.
  5. Mix tamarind with orange juice and add to pan after shrimp turn pink.
  6. Cook until squash and shrimp are done.
  7. Serve topped with a spoonful of warm tomatillo sauce and drizzle with crema.

Notes

  1. To make dairy free, use 1 TB olive oil instead of butter and replace crema with a squirt of fresh lime juice.
  2. Frozen shrimp work fine, defrost and devein before cooking. I left the shells on but it’s less messy to remove them first. 
  3. Substitute zucchini if you don’t have the Mexican/Israeli light green variety.
  4. Substitute a poblano for the fresh chilaca. 
  5. Add a thinly sliced Serrano chile for extra heat.
  6. Substitute cilantro and oregano for the fresh epazote if not available. 
  7. A green plantain (use half) or even a sweet potato would work in place of the green banana. 
  8. Goes well with warm corn tortillas and white wine or blonde beer. 

   
 

Borscht 

I had a bunch of fresh beets, and wanted to turn them into a main course. Couldn’t think of anything, then I remembered borscht! But I didn’t want an Eastern European version, so I riffed on the seasonings. 

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch (3 medium) beets, preferably with greens
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 medium potato
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 onion
  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausage
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 2-3 sprigs thyme
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 quart beef broth
  • 1 stick cinnamon 
  • 1-2 mild dried red Mexican chili peppers
  • Baharat, and/or ground “exotic spice mix” (black pepper, coriander seed, anise seed, paprika, jasmine, amchur, cumin, fennel, tarragon, caraway, clove, ginger, etc.)
  • 2 cups strained Pomi tomatoes (about half a 750ml container) 

Directions

  1. Remove sausage from casings and crumble. Brown in coconut oil in large pot. 
  2. Peel and dice vegetables, add to sausage and sweat over medium-high heat until they start to color.
  3. Deglaze pan with a healthy splash of red wine.
  4. Add broth and spices and bring to boil.
  5. Simmer until vegetables and just barely tender. Add tomatoes and cook until vegetables are soft but not mushy. 
  6. Ladle into bowls and garnish with a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream and sprigs of fresh dill. 

Notes

For vegetarian, use kidney beans and/or chickpeas instead of the sausage. Or double down on the meat and add some ground beef and chopped bacon. 

  

Salt & Pepper Shrimp

This is a favourite of mine, the Chinese restaurant near skool had a great version. For some reason it’s hard to find these days. Ideally made with head-on prawns, I adapted for the frozen shrimp I had, and mixed it up a bit with the addition of a plantain to make it a complete meal without needing rice. 

Ingredients

  • 1 lb shrimp
  • 1 onion, chopped or thinly sliced
  • 3 slices ginger, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 green plantain, peeled and sliced into rounds
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
  • 1/8 cup raw peanuts, whole

Directions 

  1. Defrost and rinse shrimps well. Shake off excess moisture. Coat with a dusting of cornstarch, season with powdered dried shrimp or salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the vegetables and stir to coat.
  2. Heat peanut or coconut oil in a wok, season with a star anise and a dried red chile pepper or Szechuan pepper. When smoking, remove spices and discard.
  3. Add the plantains to wok and stir fry until they just start to soften and get lightly brown, then add shrimp mixture and stir fry until cooked.
  4. Garnish with chopped scallion, Thai basil and/or cilantro 

Notes

This is traditionally a dry dish, but if you want a bit of sauce, deglaze the pan with rice wine, soy sauce, and a splash of mirin.

For a bit more heat, you can slice a second pepper into rounds and fry with the plantains. Or replace the plantain with an extra pepper, or use a Serrano.