|Roasted Yellowtail with Mint Jalapeño Chimichurri|
Photo by Leticia Alaniz © 2015
Cooking fish can sometimes be daunting for many people. It’s as if a monster has entered the kitchen, it has eyes, fins and a tail that look a little too real undermining our ability to accomplish any reasonable dish for dinner. I have known many people that leave the cooking of fish to the professionals at restaurants rather than cook it at home. But with fish on the menu in our own kitchens, come stories.
My mother used to make us laugh when she cooked fish. She always included a good dose of superstition that was well engrained in my mind for a long time. Many of the superstitions are based on irrational beliefs and some are entertaining legendary folktales that are in any case great fun to hear. There is one belief that says, en martes ni te cases ni te embarques, which translates to, on Tuesday don’t marry or leave port. In ancient Roman mythology, Tuesday was dedicated to Mars, the god of war. It was a day considered unlucky and therefore not a good day to undertake anything important, especially for the fisherman going out to sea.
In our household my father always resolved any conflict or dilemma by saying, “Mejor me como un salmon”, which translates to, “I’ll just eat a salmon”. He loved salmon and I think for him a good salmon dinner was much more worth the time than any argument on any given day. I have to agree with him on that one and I kind of follow that rule too. Sometimes, food does resolve everything!
Fish was always on the table especially during lent. Every Friday, there was a very strong and delicious aroma of fish in the house and my mother’s specialty was a wonderfully flaky white fish soup cooked with oregano from the garden. My favorite part is that she served it with toasted, hot, buttered bolillo bread that was crusty on the outside and pillowy soft on the inside.
Sometimes, the Friday traditional meal was at my grandmother’s house where my aunts and mother would gather with my grandmother to prepare the feast. I’m not quite sure if it took all day, but it sure did seem like it, especially when the aromas captivate and put you in a sort of trance and you have to control your urge to steal a little morsel from the kitchen when they turn their back. On those occasions, the fish feast was quite a big parade of dishes. There was fish cooked in several ways. Grilled on the flat iron or clay comal (the mexican flat griddle used to cook tortillas or roast spices, chiles and meats). Cooked whole with lots of spices, achiote, and citrus juices, or marinated with herbs, chunky garlic and a paste of adobo, and then pan fried. Or it was cut in chunks and covered in a fluffy, snow-white batter and fried in a fragrant chile oil. That’s called a capeado and it’s the same batter that is used when making chiles rellenos, or stuffed poblano or jalapeño chiles.
Cooking fish isn’t difficult at all. There are thousands of ways to prepare it and it’s so healthy! Want to know a little secret? Restaurants, especially the fancy ones take advantage that many people don’t cook fish at home and charge quite a bit of money for a fish that can easily be cooked. Many fish don’t even take long to cook, at the most, in a pan on the stove six to eight minutes. Some can be flash cooked on a very hot grill and dinner can be on the table in a matter of minutes. So much time is spent working just to hand over the hard earned money to the restaurant industry. Many families depend on restaurants for a fish dinner and that gets expensive because that is precisely the menu item that is overpriced.
Here is a look at a beautiful yellowtail fish recipe served with a mint-jalapeño chimichurri sauce and purple roasted potatoes. I came up with the blackening recipe for the fish and the chimichurri sauce based on the ingredients I had at hand. Both recipes turned out nothing short of spectacular. As for the purple potatoes… they’re buttery, soft and they glisten like little purple amethyst jewels. They’re so good!
Photo by Leticia Alaniz ©2015
Yellowtail Roasted Fish
One or two whole Yellowtail fish, cleaned
2 tablespoons of chile powder (paprika)
1 tablespoon of garlic powder
1 tablespoon of onion powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon of dried oregano
1 tablespoon of crushed fenugreek seeds
kosher salt to taste
oil for cooking
Mint Jalapeño Chimichurri
1 large jalapeño seeded
3-4 garlic cloves (fat ones)
8-10 mint leaves
1 bunch of cilantro
2-3 sprigs of fresh dill
2 limes squeezed
3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
1/2 cup of olive oil
salt to taste
|Mint Jalapeño Chimichurri Ingredients|
Photo by Leticia Alaniz © 2015
Place the yellowtail fish on a board and dry with paper towels. In a small bowl combine the chile powder, garlic powder, onion powder, ground black pepper, cayenne pepper, oregano, fenugreek seeds and kosher salt and mix. Coat the entire fish with the seasoning. Drizzle a little cooking oil in a pan and let heat. Dab a square or two of butter into the pan (don’t be afraid of butter). Once hot, place the fish one at a time into the pan and let sizzle and blacken for about four minutes on each side. It will become smokey, so ventilate your kitchen well or be prepared for your fire alarms to go off! Remove the fish from the pan and place in a roasting pan or large plate to catch the juices. Season with a little kosher salt, it just feels good.
To make the chimichurri it’s as simple as combining all the ingredients and pulsing in a blender 2 to 3 times. Scrape down the sides and make sure te get all the ingredients combined. Repeat the process until you get a thick sauce. It will be a beautiful emerald green.
Roasted Purple Potatoes
Boil the potatoes whole with the skin on until tender. Once they are soft but not too soft that they fall apart, take them off the stove and let cool a few minutes. Slice them in big fat chunks. Drizzle a little olive oil in a pan and heat. Place the potatoes in the hot pan and proceed to roast them over medium high heat. Season right over the pan to taste with freshly crushed black pepper, kosher salt and chile powder. Dab at least three squares of butter on top and mix the potatoes and continue cooking for another five to six minutes. They will start to glisten. Taste for salt or eat a few on a little plate while you call the family for dinner. That’s it!