Another tasty seafood dish for your enjoyment. This is probably my Dad’s favorite Mexican dish. It also is probably the best known Mexican seafood dish. Do you want to learn how to make it?
Huachinango a la Veracruzana is a classic Mexican dish from the Mexican state of Veracruz. In fact, it is considered the signature dish of Veracruz although there are numerous ways of preparing this “signature dish.” You see, Veracruz is located in Eastern Mexico, bordered by Tamaulipas to the north, San Luis Potosí and Hidalgo to the west, Puebla to the southwest, Oaxaca and Chiapas to the south, Tabasco to the southeast and the Gulf of Mexico on the east. Its diverse culture and population mimics its diverse geography. You have the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico on the east with the Mountains in the south and west with rivers, lush valleys, and tropical forests in between. It also is considered to have one of the richest varieties of wildlife in Western Hemisphere and is the largest cattle producer in Mexico. Despite being a major cattle producer, having such a large coastline, fresh seafood constitutes a significant portion of its cuisine, along with dishes with fabulous aromatic spices, chilis, fruits, and nuts, which are plentiful. Further, the diversity of the culture is evident in the cuisine. As a result, Huachinango a la Veracruzana will vary depending upon what part of Veracruz it is made and who is making it. You see, there simply is no “correct” way to make Huachinango a la Veracruzana. It is simply a style of cooking that shows off the Spanish influences in Mexican cuisine.
This recipe is more of the Spanish-Mediterranean style with olive and capers that you find along the coast except I don’t use a whole snapper, as is traditional. As you move farther inland toward the mountains you will see versions of this dish with raisins. While I like raisins, I am not overly fond of Huachinango a la Veracruzana with raisins. To me, the sweetness from the plump raisins detracts from the beauty of the spicy tomato sauce with the salty capers and olives which pairs so beautifully with the red snapper. Now, if you don’t have red snapper, you can use any firm fleshed flaky white fish. I have seen it made with halibut, mahi-mahi, rock fish aka Pacific yellow tail snapper, sea bass, grouper, etc. I have even seen it made with swordfish which I personally would discourage only because swordfish is such a dense meat and I prefer to eat my swordfish either seared, medium rare to medium depending upon the preparation. If you use another seafood, however, the dish becomes “Pescado a la Veracruzana” (fish Veracruz). Regardless of the fish you select, here is what we did with our red snapper.
- 2.25 lbs red snapper filets
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 onions, diced
- 4 large, ripe tomatoes, cored (roughly 2 lbs)
- 1 cup green olives
- 2 Tbsp capers, drained and rinsed
- 2 Tbsp Jalapeños en escabeche (recipe found here)
- 2 – 3 fresh jalapeños, sliced into rings (if you want it spicier, use Serrano chiles)
- 4 cloves garlic, diced
- 1/3 cup flat leaf parsley
- 2 Tbsp fresh oregano (1 Tbsp dried)
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 oz. Sherry
- salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 325 F. Roast tomatoes under the broiler.
While the tomatoes are roasting, mince the garlic and slice the olives. Baby day just wanted to take pictures of me working. So, since she took them, I had to use them.
Add the tomatoes to the food processor and
pulse. You don’t want to liquify the tomatoes. Instead, you want them chunky.
Now, add the olive oil to a skillet. We love our cast iron skillets. Every kitchen should have at least 1 good cast iron skillet.
Now, add the diced onions and sauté.
When the onions have become translucent, add the garlic.
Cook for another 1 – 2 minutes until the garlic becomes aromatic. Now add the tomatoes. I love the flavor imparted by the roasted tomatoes. If you don’t have fresh tomatoes to roast, you can substitute canned tomatoes.
Next, add the bay leaves,
and black pepper.
Add the jalapeños
and the jalapeños en escabeche. I like the brightness the escabeche brings to the sauce.
Let this simmer until the liquid has reduced by 1/3. Now, add the sherry and remove from heat to cool.
While cooling, trim the red snapper so that it fits in a casserole/baking dish.
Add a thin layer of the sauce on the bottom of the dish to prevent the fish from sticking.
Put the filets atop the sauce.
Using the rest of the sauce, cover the snapper filets.
Put in the oven, uncovered
Bake for 20 minutes or so until the fish is just done. You want it ever so slightly opaque in the center, yet flaky. Serve atop rice.
Make sure you don’t leave any of this delicious sauce behind.
Garnish with a little fresh chopped parsley.
Serve & enjoy.
NOTES: Some versions of Huachinango a la Veracruzana fry the red snapper to make the skin crispy. This is fine if you want to go to the trouble to do so but if you crisp the skin then you should finish the dish on the stovetop. Baking it will cause the fried skin to become soggy. Some people simply make the sauce, fry the fish and serve the crispy fish atop rice and then spoon the sauce over the top. This allows you to have crispy skin and a wonderful sauce. I like the flavor the fish imparts to the sauce so this is why I make Huachinango a la Veracruzana in the manner I make it. Like I said, there is no “correct” way to make the dish. This is just how I do it. It has wonderful flavor I promise you that you, your family and guests will truly enjoy. It’s absolutely delicious. 🙂
20 thoughts on “Huachinango a la Veracruzana (Red Snapper Veracruz)”
Wonderful post, Richard, I love this! It reminds me of some Italian recipes, although they usually have no chili or just a bit of chili flakes. I’m definitely going to do my own version soon 🙂
Thanks, Stefan. You would really like this dish. The jalapeños were very mild by our standards (Serrano chiles would have been better) but give the dish wonderful flavor with the tomatoes, olives and capers. You could probably do this dish sous vide but the fish might break up on you when removing them from the bags.
We just had my version of this for dinner and it was wonderful! The sauce has lots of flavor. I also made arroz blanco for the first time.
I’m always on the lookout for interesting ways to prepare fish, and this looks and sounds delicious. Thanks for sharing Richard….
Thanks, Sandra. With Spring on the way and all of its bounty, you should give this dish a try. It’s very fresh and somewhat Mediterranean.
Beautiful Richard. I find it very hard to get decent red snapper here. Not that I couldn’t replace it with cod or hake or haddock or pollock or gurnard or monkfish. I really have no excuse.
Hi, Conor. We get red snapper pretty regularly in DFW but the Gulf of Mexico has lots of red snapper. When I was young and working in the Gulf of Mexico, I would fish off of the rigs in the evening. In the course of a week I would catch enough red snapper to go home with 30 lbs of filets. We would have big fish fries when I got back. Now, instead of one of the perks of my job, quality red snapper usually puts me back anywhere from $15 – 20/ lb. Of course, I no longer have to count all of my fingers before I go to bed anymore, either. 😉
You got there before me Richard. I was about to say that a high flyer like you can well afford the price of the fish.
What a fabulous signature dish. Great flavours. And I have to say I love your stove!
Hi Virginia. Thanks for the compliment. Glad you like the stove. It’s one of my prize possessions. 🙂 It’s an AGA Legacy, dual fuel range. There is a better photo of it here – https://remcooks.com/2012/12/27/christmas-dinner-and-the-suckling-pig/135-3517_img-cropped/
It has 6 gas burners (2 wok burners), an electric broiler, 2 electric ovens (1 multipurpose and 1 true convection), and a warming/utility drawer. It cooks beautifully. I liked the color, too, because it fit the decor of the kitchen. Actually, I liked the color of the stove and built the decor of the kitchen around the stove. 🙂
Awesome. Do you know I do real estate and I did a showing for someone who was actually saying she wanted to expand the bathroom and get rid of the kitchen. i was speechless! She said she doesn’t cook so what’s the point. Yikes.
I haven’t had this dish in years and must remember to make it again soon.
I love everything about this dish except the green olives. I have never been a huge green olive fan, they are just too salty for my taste. Would it totally ruin the flavor if I omit them? Or what about reducing the amount? (Or perhaps the green olive is just a poor misunderstood food ingredient for me?)
Thanks, Kathryn. I used to abhor green olives but loved the black olives. I don’t know what changed but years ago I started eating them with things. I didn’t mind them in pizza or Italian dishes. Then, one day I found bleu cheese stuffed green olives. I love bleu cheese and it went beautifully with the saltiness of the olive. Now, I eat green olives with lots of things and by themselves.
As for ruining the dish, the dish will be very tasty without the green olives but you will miss the flavor of the olives. In your case, you won’t miss them at all. 😉 If you like black olives, try it with black olives as a substitute; otherwise, omit the olives in their entirety.
Thank you Richard!
Never had it with crispy skin, but that sounds like it would be very good. Always had it with black olives instead of green olives. I think I prefer them, Except for those two things, I’m glad that stuck with the traditional approach to this fabulous dish.
Hi Bro. I never knew you looked at the blog. Glad to see you stopped by and the dish meets with your approval. As for the green olives vs. the black olives, as you should know from experience, there is no one recipe for this dish. I have seen several recipes for Huachinango a la Veracruzana using black olives but the vast majority of recipes use green olives. Pati Jenich makes hers that way, as does Diana Kennedy. I would also mention Rick Bayless but I know you don’t think he cooks authentic Mexican food. 😛 Anyway, inasmuch as you have spent almost all of your adult years in North Carolina, you have forgotten what real Mexican food is. 😀 😀 😀
The first time I had Huachinango a la Veracruzana was in the city of Veracruz, in the state of Veracruz. It doesn’t get much more “Veracruzana” than that. And there they used black olives. Pati is from the DF lived briefly in TX and now lives in the DC area. Diana Kennedy is from the UK, emigrated to Canada for a while and now lives in NY. “No son Veracurzanos.” -Just sayin’… 🙂
Elia says she loves it. 😀 😀 😀