Pescado a la Veracruzana or fish in the style of Veracruz is a simple dish that comes together in under 30 minutes and works with almost any type of fish. Despite its uncomplicated preparation it’s one of those perfect dishes that is light, yet full of flavour, while festive enough to serve to dinner guests.
The list of ingredients reads more like it originated around the Mediterranean than the Gulf of Mexico, but as the name implies, it’s a regional specialty from the southeastern Mexican state of Veracruz. A coastal area, Veracruz is known for it’s abundant seafood and a rich culinary history heavily influenced by Spain, and there’s a good reason for this. Veracruz where Hernán Cortés established the first Spanish colony nearly five hundred years ago.
I used swordfish steaks tonight because that’s what was on sale, but this is great with almost any type of fish, including red snapper (huachinango), halibut (hipogloso), skate (raya), and salmon (salmón). The Veracruz sauce also makes a superb accompaniment for other types of seafood such as mussels and scallops.
4 pieces of fish (snapper, salmon, halibut or swordfish all work great)
1 small onion diced
4 large cloves of garlic minced
3 medium tomatoes diced
1 Serrano chili minced
1/2 C pitted green olives sliced in half
1/3 C capers in brine drained
1/2 tsp Mexican oregano
1/4 tsp marjoram
1 California bay leaf
1/2 tsp kosher salt (halve if using table salt)
2 Tbs cilantro minced
For the Veracruz sauce, fry the onions and garlic in a couple tablespoons of olive oil until soft and translucent. Add the tomatoes, chili, olives, capers, oregano, marjoram and bay leaf. Cook over medium high heat for about 20 minutes to reduce the amount of liquid and concentrate the flavours. Taste it and add salt as needed (about 1/2 tsp of kosher salt should do it).
To get the fish crisp and brown on the outside, you need to get the surface very dry, use paper towels and try to get as much moisture off the surface as possible. Start heating a cast iron pan over medium high heat.
When the pan is very hot, lightly salt and pepper both sides of the fish. Add a splash of oil to the pan and swirl to coat. Put the fish into the pan and do not touch until it starts turning brown around the edges and no longer sticks to the pan. Gently flip and brown the other side. If you’re cooking thicker cuts of fish, the center should read 125 degrees F on an instant read thermometer.
When it’s cooked, plate the fish. Stir the minced cilantro into the sauce. Cover the the fish with the Veracruz sauce and garnish with some spare cilantro leaves and a wedge of lime.