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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Vera Cruz Mahi Mahi with California golden raisins

Sometimes images can speak to your stomach. I once saw a picture of Vera Cruz Red Snapper and I was instantly taken. The olives, chunks of tomato, white fish...ah, yes.

So it's been months that I've wanted to make this, and after one too many excuses, I finally did. (Note: I really wanted to make it for our friends, Ray and Griselda, so if you're reading this, I've perfected it and will make it for you right!)

I'm a big fish lover, so let's start there. I'm on a kick of Mahi Mahi right now. It's firm, but doesn't gum up if you cook it right. It holds a nice crust on a pan fry. It handles so many recipes and seasonings, and it's fairly mild (in my opinion). Versatility is its strong suit, and it's a bit forgiving if you overcook, undercook or whatever. Anyway, I often buy it in a 2 pound bag frozen, so it's sort of a staple in my house. Now if you're one of those people that says, "I only buy fresh from my fishmonger," then read someone else's blog. Sure, I'd love to have a fishmonger and sure, I prefer fresh fish, but I'm also practical. I enjoy a good meal every single day primarily because I'm not anal about things like fishmongers. If you're still with me, read on.

While I was formulating the menu for this particular meal, I had to decide whether I was going to pan fry and top with the Vera Cruz sauce, or if I was going to bake the fish in the sauce. To be honest, I was a little hesitant to bake it in the sauce because I was craving a little of the buttery crust I add on the pan fry, but my timing made it necessary to make the sauce and then release the fish to the oven for 20 minutes to make other things. Tactical decision made by necessity, but oh well. And, our guests have kids (and with my son in the mix), I didn't want to be dealing with two pans of splashing, popping hot oil (I was also frying wonton wrappers for mini-tostadas). Oven it was.

So I set aside three Mahi Mahi steaks with salt and pepper, while I made the sauce.

Vera Cruz sauce:

1- 28 oz can diced tomatoes, drained - liquid reserved in a bowl.
1 Jalapeno, finely chopped
1 white onion, finely chopped
5 gloves garlic, finely minced (or 1-2 heaping tablespoons minced garlic from a jar)
Dried Oregano
Dried parsley
1/2 Cup raisins
1/4 Cup capers, drained
Olive oil

First, pour a solid amount of olive oil into a pan and bring to medium-high heat. The amount of oil you use is dependent on your tastes, but for this I'd go with a thin layer across the bottom of a mid-sized pan. Add onion and fry up 3-5 minutes...turns pale with some browning. Add garlic and jalapeno, and fry for another 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and stir well. Add 1/4 - 1/2 of the tomato liquid (or the whole of it, if you're stressed), and stir well. Sprinkle dried oregano over the top to form a thin sheen (maybe 2 Tbsp) and add about the same amount of dried parsley. Add raisins and capers. Now I used California golden raisins as a shout out to my home state. But, I've never seen it done like that and all recipes that have raisins call for just raisin. Live a little. You'll also see some recipes tell you to rinse your capers - why? That's a rhetorical question - don't be scared. Stir well, and reduce heat to simmer. Stir often and simmer this sauce about 10-20 minutes. Lower the heat if it pops too much or if it gets dried out.

Get a baking dish ready. My wife got me this awesome baking dish from Sur La Table for Christmas and it was perfect for this dish (here's a rectangle model with handles, but mine is a circle kind of like a paella pan). As the sauce neared its ready mark, I spooned out a bit to cover the bottom of the dish. Then lay the fish on top in a single layer. Then pour your sauce over the fish to cover. Bake for 15-20 minutes on 350.

To serve, it's nice to garnish with some fresh parsley, minced and strewn about.


~ Brock

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