Along the Eastern Coast of Mexico, you’ll find the port city called Veracruz, which stretches along the Gulf Coast like the graceful tentacle of a sea creature.
Known for its tropical weather, friendly people and Afro-Caribbean vibe, seafood and spices are the culinary hallmark of this coastal city where Mexican flavors blend with West African accents and is a pescatarian paradise.
My recipe for fish Veracruz is an incredibly flavorful version that highlights the simple flavor of white fish, such as cod, pollock, tilapia and swordfish. Like many of the dishes from the region my fish is stewed in a flavorful sauce made from tomatoes, onion, peppers, spices and aromatics.
This dish is that is light and breezy, perfect for a lazy day dining al fresco with a good bottle of wine or crisp sparking water.
One thing to note is that the ingredient list looks lengthy, but don’t let it intimidate you. It’s mostly made up of a variety of aromatics and vegetables that you can adjust as needed. For example if all you have available it green bell pepper then use that instead of making an extra trip to the market for red and yellow versions – although the different colored peppers add color and depth to the dish, it will still taste great.
Ingredients (serves 3-4)
1 ½ lbs of white fish such as cod, pollock, tilapia or rockfish, cut into 3-4 individual portions
1 large white onion, sliced
1 cup crushed canned tomatoes
1 cup water
½ red bell pepper, julienned
½ yellow bell pepper, julienned
½ orange bell pepper, julienned
8-10 whole green pitted olives, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
½ fresh jalapeno, minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tspns cumin powder
2 tspns chili powder
2 tspns dried oregano
1 medium lime, sliced in half
White flour as needed
Fresh cilantro for garnish
Add the fish to a shallow dish and squeeze the fresh lime over the fillets. Set aside and allow to marinate while the sauce is being made.
Over medium heat; add the vegetable oil to a large sauce pan along with the garlic, onion, bell pepper, fresh thyme, bay leaf, and jalapeno. Sauté until the vegetables are soft and aromatic. Careful not to burn the garlic.
Add the crushed tomatoes, water, cumin, oregano and olives to the sauce pan and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Simmer on low heat while you finish the fish.
You have a couple of options at this point:
- Add the fish the to the sauce pan, cover and steam for 10 to 12 minutes before serving, or;
- Dust the fish with a little flour and allow to rest and form a light crust while you heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a skillet. Pan fry the fish on both sides until brown. When done add the fish to the sauce and cook for 2-3 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld. Serve immediately with rice or on its own.