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. 🙂