Thursday, January 22, 2015

Pescado Tikin-Xik

If I had to guess, because I really haven’t tracked it yet, I would say that I eat Mexican food more often than any other type of cuisine. From casual tacos to elaborate meals, I love cooking this type of food too. I was delighted to receive a review copy of Mexico: The Cookbook by Margarita Carrillo Arronte. It’s a big, beautiful reference for dishes from every region of Mexico. It shows the diversity of the food and the blend of Spanish and indigenous cooking traditions. The saffron, capers, and olives from the Mediterranean appear along with MesoAmerican ingredients like chiles, beans, tomatoes, avocados, pumpkin, and corn. The recipes are organized by type of dish. There are street snacks like gorditas, quesadillas, and tamales with all sorts of fillings. There are fresh salads, soups for every season, and ceviches as well as main courses, sauces, breads, and sweets. I’m a little distracted by the Eggs chapter and might need to just cook my way through it. Of the many egg dishes that sound delicious, I want to try the Mestizan Eggs with Chile made with an herby tomato and ancho sauce and topped with poblano strips, sour cream, and panela. And, there are several chicken dishes I want to make as well. The Chicken in Creamy Tomato Sauce, Yucatan-Style Chicken in Orange Sauce, and Stuffed Chicken in Peanut Sauce are a few. The first dish I made from the book was the Pescado Tikin-Xik. It comes from the Yucatan Peninsula, and the fish is baked, wrapped in a banana leaf after marinating in a sauce made with achiote paste. 

I wanted to make my own achiote paste for this because some store-bought pastes include food coloring and preservatives that I’d rather avoid. It’s easy to make by using a spice grinder to mix two tablespoons annatto seeds, one teaspoon whole cumin seed, one teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, six whole allspice berries, one teaspoon sea salt, one teaspoon coriander seed, and two whole cloves. Once the spices are ground, a minced garlic clove and a tablespoon of lime juice were added to make a paste. This paste was combined with apple cider vinegar before being added to the fish. I chose black drum from the Gulf and used portioned fillets for this. The recipe in the book is written for a large fillet to be portioned after baking. So, my cooking time was shorter, and each plate received a banana leaf package. The fish fillets were seasoned, topped with the juice of an orange, and then the achiote-vinegar mixture was added. The fish was left in the refrigerator to marinate for an hour. To cook, pieces of banana leaf were placed on a baking sheet, a piece of fish was placed on each, each fillet was topped with sliced onion, sliced tomato, a bay leaf, sliced bell pepper, and pieces of sliced and seeded habanero. The banana leaves were folded around the fish, and I baked them for about eighteen minutes. With my shortened cooking time, the vegetables remained crisp-tender. I was thrilled to find pretty, ripe tomatoes from our local B5 Farms where they’re greenhouse-grown in colder weather. And, sadly, I had to buy banana leaves at the grocery store since we haven’t replaced our banana plants after they died off in a freeze a few years ago. I served the fish with cilantro rice and fried plantains. 

When the banana leaf packages were opened, the fish was aromatic and completely tender. Cooking the fish in the enclosed pocket of a leaf does wonders for the texture, and all those flavors from the achiote paste mix together wonderfully. I’ll be making achiote paste often from now on to use on fish or chicken or tofu. And, adding tostones to the meal made me realize I need to be making those more often too. This book will have me enjoying Mexican food even more frequently than I already do.

Pescado Tikin-Xik 
Recipe reprinted with publisher’s permission from Mexico: The Cookbook by Margarita Carrillo Arronte (Phaidon, $49.95, October 2014). 

Region: Yucatan Pennisula 
Preparation time: 25 minutes, plus 1 hour marinating 
Cooking time: 25 minutes 
Serves: 6 

3 1/4 lb/1.5 kg grouper, filleted 
juice of 1 orange 
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano 
2 tablespoons achiote paste 
4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar 
4 tablespoons (2 1/4 oz/60 g) lard or butter 
1 large white onion, sliced 
3 tomatoes, sliced 
2 bay leaves 
1/2–1 habanero chile, membrane and seeds removed 
2 yellow bell peppers, seeded and cut into strips 
1 banana leaf 
sea salt and pepper 
fried plantains, to serve
Refried Beans, to serve 
Red Onion Escabeche, to serve 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C/Gas Mark 4). 

Place the fillets in a shallow dish. Add the orange juice and oregano and season with salt and pepper. 

Put the achiote and vinegar in a small bowl, and stir until dissolved. Pour the mixture over the fish, cover with plastic wrap (clingfilm), and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour. 

Grease a large ovenproof dish with some of the lard or butter. Remove the fish from the marinade and place the fish opened out in the dish. Spread with the remaining lard, then put the onion, tomatoes, bay leaves, chile, and bell peppers on top. Wrap the fish with the banana leaf, then cover with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until the fish is cooked but not dry. Serve with plantains, refried beans, and red onion escabeche. 

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  1. Fabulous and refined! Lots of great flavors going on in there.



  2. This looks and sounds delicious! I adore Mexican food and will be checking out the cookbook. Thanks for the recipe!

  3. Gorgeous, healthy, and super authentic-looking. Wonderful, Lisa!

  4. It looks scrumptious! You cook really well, Lisa.

  5. This looks so great! I always struggle with ideas for fish so this is perfect. I'm crazy about plantains, too, so this one is a big winner.

  6. Mexican cuisine isn't as common here as it is in the US so as much as I love Mexican, we don't eat it all that often. Thai on the other hand... I do think this dish has beautiful seasonings and flavours xx

  7. Mexican cuisine is overlooked here often for Italian or Asian, but its dishes like these people don't appreciate! How tasty :D

    Choc Chip Uru

  8. What a gorgeous -- and tasty! -- way to prepare fish. I love Mexican (and all of its cousins -- Tex-Mex, New Mexico, etc.) food too. Really nice-- thanks.

  9. I read a few reviews of this book on, and was amazed by some of the criticisms... have you seen those, Lisa? I don't think I've ever seem a book of this caliber be hammered that way... made me feel a little sorry for Ms Arronte, I wonder if she will address some of the points. Some recipes seem totally off... (evidently not the great one you featured here!) ;-)

    1. Sally, I hadn't read the Amazon reviews until now. I did see some errors and typos in the book, but honestly, I see errors and typos in every cookbook I read. One comment I read mentioned that detailed instructions aren't given for every part of a dish. It's true, I think the book does assume the reader will know how to cook some things or how to put things together. And, the book covers so many dishes, any added detail would have made it a gigantic volume. Maybe this book is better suited to readers who are already somewhat comfortable cooking Mexican food.

  10. Very true... probably it is the case. I think that classic Italian cookbook, "The Silver Spoon" is by the same editors, and some recipes were half a page long, even though they were actually pretty complex.

  11. i eat a lot of mexican food too, though i think it might more appropriately be described at mex-american. i'm so unfamiliar with many of their authentic ingredients! i think this sounds amazing.

  12. Well that sounds like a cookbook I definitely need! Authentic Mexican food fascinates me, especially since it is so hard to find here in the US! THis dish looks amazing.

  13. Dear Lisa, That dish certainly looks delicious and fun!!

  14. I'm with you and Mexican food. I pretty sure it dominates our plates. Beautiful dish. And so fun cooking with banana leaves.

  15. I miss having a good Mexican restaurant close by (or 5) but here we have a taco shop and that's it. I need this book, obviously. The recipes you mentioned made my heart skip a beat.

  16. We love Mexican food too! It's definitely one of our favorite cuisines and we have something at least once a week. This dish looks delicious and I'll be checking out this book.

  17. Re reviews of the book: really difficult to catch every error...I did one for my family years ago and have found at least 6 errors since. Some not worth mentioning but a couple actually missed ingredients. As I did the editing myself, it was my responsibility, but a good editor should catch a lot of mistakes.
    At any rate, this dish looks marvelous, Lisa. I've cooked fish in parchment many a time, would be much more fun with banana leaves!

  18. I love Mexican food and your dish sounds great and really is pretty.

  19. Hi Lisa, Mexican food is my favorite, love the spice combination in this dish, I bet it was delicious!

  20. Mexican food is a favorite of mine too Lisa. Marion not so much so I've been avoiding it lately. I must say though I have never heard of this dish or this book for that matter. It sounds so intriguing. It sure looks delicious. I'd love to try it one day!

    Thanks so much for sharing, Lisa...maybe when Cookbook Wednesday starts up again, you will be able to share one of your reads on the linky:)

  21. I like this. Wrapping in banana leaf and with all the herbs, the fish must be really aromatic and well seasoning. I am sure it is perfect to serve with rice. If thinking to have more veggies, probably can add some eggplant, okra and long bean. :)


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