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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Yucatan Fish

Having just gotten back from Oaxaca, where we bought a molecate before we had even learned recipes that required one, so that when we came home it was inevitable that we would want to replicate some of the food.  This fish recipe is intensely flavored without having additional added fat, so is a great main course for a low calorie meal.

  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 serrano pepper, sliced or chopped
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ¼ cup lime juice, more as needed
  • 2 teaspoons achiote (annatto) powder, available in Latino and Indian markets
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon chipotle chile
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seed
  • ½ teaspoon cloves
  • 6 allspice berries
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed to a paste
  • 1 ¾ pound grouper or sea bass fillet, skin on
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, sliced thick
  • Banana leaves, available in Latino and Asian markets, or use parchment or foil

  1. Make the pickled onions: Put onion in a bowl and season generously with salt and pepper. Add serrano, 3 tablespoons orange juice and 2 tablespoons lime juice, then mix well. Set aside for at least 15 minutes. Combine and reserve remaining citrus juice for marinade.
  2. Make the marinade: Put achiote, cinnamon, oregano and chipotle in a small stainless steel or glass bowl. In a small dry skillet over medium heat, lightly toast cumin, cloves and allspice until fragrant, 1 minute or less. Grind toasted spices to a powder in a spice mill or mortar, then add to other spices. Add garlic, 1 large pinch salt and remaining citrus juice and stir to make a paste. If very thick, add more lime juice. (Note: achiote may stain surfaces or clothing.)
  3. Season fish on both sides with salt and pepper. Using a sharp knife, score skin at thickest parts, if desired. Paint fish on both sides with marinade. Squeeze a little lime juice over fish. Chill for 45 minutes (or up to 2 hours).
  4. Bring fish to room temperature and heat oven to 425 degrees. Cut banana leaves crosswise into footlong lengths and soften by passing them briefly over a stovetop burner. Rinse leaves and pat dry. Lay a double thickness of leaves on a baking sheet and lay fish on it, skin-side down. Top fish with a large handful of pickled onions. Arrange tomato wedges over onions. Sprinkle with salt and a little more lime juice. Lay more leaves on top, then wrap like a package, tying with string or strips of leaf. Bake for 25 minutes, then remove and let package rest, unopened, for 15 minutes. Serve with remaining pickled onions.

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