Captain Hook’s Gallery: Seasonal Seafood Recipes in Baja California
Baja California may be known around the world for its sunny, warm climate, but it still isn’t exempt from relatively chilly winter weather patterns from the north. Thus, the holiday season is the perfect time to enjoy warming comfort foods that incorporate the peninsula’s abundant bounties from the sea. And whether you buy your primary ingredients at the fish market or catch them yourself, here are a few tasty recipes that should deliver satisfied smiles to the faces of your family and friends during this special time of year.
Sopa Siete Mares (Seven Seas Soup)
One of the most basic of these of seasonal seafood recipes is Sopa Siete Mares, or Seven Seas Soup, and there are probably as many variations as there are poblados in Baja Norte and Baja Sur combined. While this is only one of many great recipes, it is absolutely delicious! Please feel free to adjust ingredients and seasonings to suit your personal taste …everyone else does!
4 unpeeled garlic cloves
8 medium-large dried guajillo chiles, seeded and stemmed
½ Tbsp. dried whole Mexican oregano
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Large pinch of freshly ground cumin seeds
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin olive oil
½ cup water
Over medium heat, roast the garlic using a heavy skillet, constantly turning until it is soft and lightly browned. Let the cloves cool, and then peel. Toast the chiles 1 or 2 at a time using the same skillet, flattening them for a few seconds on each side with a spatula. Cover the toasted chiles with boiling water and steep for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain the chiles thoroughly and add them together in a food processor along with the crushed cumin seeds, black pepper, roasted garlic and ½ cup of water. Blend the mixture into a smooth puree, adding more water if necessary. Strain through a medium mesh colander. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot and add the puree once it has begun to sizzle. Set aside.
4 quarts fish or shellfish broth
1 large bunch of fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons salt
1 Tbsp brown or raw sugar
14 large (18 medium) shrimp, heads on
5 small potatoes, boiled and diced
2 cups diced chayote squash (zucchini can also be substituted)
4 medium onions, finely minced
1 kilo of fresh, well scrubbed clams, mussels or a combination of both
1 kilo of boneless, skinless white fish fillet such as rock cod, sea bass or halibut
Combine ingredients and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes before adding the strained base mixture. Continue to cook over medium heat for 45 minutes while stirring occasionally. Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tails on. Add the potatoes to the hot broth. Simmer uncovered until the potatoes are nearly tender, about 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook for 3 minutes. Add the mussels or clams and simmer until the shellfish open, then add the fish cubes before stirring in the shrimp. Cover, remove from heat and let stand for at least 5 minutes before serving.
Garnish with chopped white onions, minced cilantro and lime wedges. Enjoy with fresh, warm tortillas.
Huachinango en Salsa Verde
Another popular dish that goes great over the holiday season is Huachinango en Salsa Verde; and whether you use true red snapper from the waters of Baja Sur, or the Pacific red snapper from Baja Norte, this toothsome dish truly characterizes the spirit of la cocina Mexicana.
While the true red snapper, known throughout Baja as huachinango, is caught predominantly off of the western coast of Baja Sur and in much of the Sea of Cortez, certain rockfishes along the Pacific coast of Baja Norte are also sometimes referred to as red snapper. Although unrelated, both of these species are white fleshed, delicately flavored and absolutely superb when properly prepared. This special recipe includes a flavorful, long green chile as a delicious wrap for each of the delicate fillets.
8 fillets of fresh red snapper, pargo or rockcod
1 bunch fresh cilantro, well rinsed and patted dry
1 white onion, coarsely chopped
6 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced
6 peeled, de-ribbed and seeded fresh Anaheim or Hatch green chilis
2 fresh Jalapeño chiles, seeded with stems removed
1 can of whole tomatillos, well rinsed
½ cup clarified butter
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups of pre-cooked saffron or Mexican-style rice, served hot
Place onion, garlic, cilantro, tomatillos and jalapeños in a food processor and blend ingredients until they are completely. Cut each Anaheim (California) or Hatch (New Mexico) green chile lengthwise, remove all seeds and membranes and then flatten them out with the inner side facing up and set aside. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Combine the flour, black pepper and salt in a shallow bowl. Dip the fillets in the flour mixture and sauté them gently in clarified butter, turning once, until each one is lightly golden brown. Wrap each fish fillet in a green chile, arrange wrapped fillets on an ovenproof platter and top with salsa verde. Place in oven until the salsa and chiles are well heated and serve with warm tortillas and rice.
Here’s one last dish that incorporates one of Baja’s most popular seafood options, fresh shrimp. And, thanks to the San Felipe shrimp harvest in early November, it is usually in plentiful supply during the holidays. It is a recipe that also includes the rich, earthy flavor of poblano chiles to help spice things up a bit.
One important tip is to always select the best ingredients. When buying fresh shrimp, be sure to insist on purchasing only ones that are firm, and lacking in even the slightest hint of ammonia. In the event that a suitably fresh product is unavailable, try to find frozen shrimp that have been individually quick frozen.
The poblano chile ranges in color from dark green to almost black and have a tempting, rich flavor that can vary from mild to picante. The darkest poblanos generally have the most intense flavor, making them the best candidates for stuffing. Although grown throughout the U.S. southwest, and readily available in most supermarkets, many epicureans say that the very best tasting chiles are still found in central Mexico.
½ kilo fresh, unpeeled medium shrimp
8 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large poblano chile, halved and seeded
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 tomato, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cumin seed
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup sour cream
8 to 10 freshly made corn tortillas
1 (10-12 ounce) can of tomatillo and green chili based enchilada sauce
1 1/2 cups (6-8 ounces) shredded Manchego or Monterey Jack cheese
Peel, devein and rinse the shrimp, then set aside. Brush an 11- x- 7-inch baking dish with 2 tablespoons olive oil, set aside. Sauté pepper in remaining oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until skin looks blistered. Remove from skillet, and chop.
Return chopped chile pepper to skillet. Add onion and next 6 ingredients; sauté 4 minutes. Add shrimp, sauté 1 minute, remove from heat and cool 5 minutes. Stir in sour cream.
Heat tortillas individually on griddle, then spoon the shrimp mixture evenly down center of each tortilla, and carefully roll up. Arrange each enchilada side-by-side, seam side down, in the prepared baking dish. Top them with sauce, sprinkle with cheese (adding a bit more, if you are a cheese lover), and serve. This dish can be covered and refrigerated for a day prior to cooking, if desired. Bake in oven for about 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees. Serves 4.
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