Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Pescado a la Veracruzano

The Mexican state of Veracruz is narrow East-West but long North-South having claimed much of the prime gulf real estate.  As a result, Veracruz is most famous for seafood served in the style of Veracruz (pescado a la Veracruzano) and as the point from which Cortes began his march on Tenochtitlan.  This later point, perhaps, explaining the heavily Spanish influence on salsa veracruzana.

Salsa veracruzana contains several classically Mediterranean ingredients - olives, capers, marjoram, and thyme - along with a number indigenous to the Americas - tomatoes and chiles - plus a few warming spices from Southeast Asia - cloves and cinnamon - for good measure.  It is quite the melting pot of a salsa.  I made mine loosely following the recipe in Rick Bayless' Authentic Mexican, which contains quite a few really delicious seafood dishes, but there are hundreds of versions online.

Because Texas and Veracruz share a gulf, I thought it would be appropriate to use a gulf fish and the fillets of Texas Redfish looked fresh and was on sale.  (Texas Redfish is also known as red drum and is found as far north as Massachusettes and as far south as Veracruz.  I don't know why Texas likes to use a different name for it, but that is the only way I've seen it labeled at the fish counter.)  Cooking the fish couldn't have been easier, just gentle poaching in the salsa for about 10 minutes while I focused my attention on the homemade corn tortillas.

I really don't care for corn tortillas.  I find the mass-produced variety too dry, too bland, and with a rather unpleasant consistency.  But before I wrote them off entirely, I decided to give handmade a try.  Corn tortillas are easy to make - just masa, salt, and water (although next time, a little fat wouldn't hurt) - but sort of a pain to roll out.  My first several attempts were too thin and tore as I tried to get them onto the griddle.  With a little patience, I persevered and ended up with very fresh, soft, tasty, but irregularly-shaped corn tortillas staying nice and warm in the embroidered tortilla warmer our friend Maria gave us.  Totally worth the effort - although in the future, I'll definitely be picking up one of the $15 tortilla presses sold in every grocery store in town.

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