Pescado a la veracruzana. Fish in the Veracruz style. Veracruz being a port city on the Gulf coast of Mexico. And given its location on the gulf of Mexico, the fish in question is traditionally red snapper. I’m going to show you how to make it. It’s the sauce that hooked me. Veracruz sauce. Settle in. There’s a story to tell.
Ode to the Mediterranean Diet
This may sound like a digression (because it is!), but bear with me a moment.
The anchoring theme of this food blog, slow burning passion, is the Mediterranean diet. I began following a Mediterranean style diet several years ago mainly for health reasons. It’s anti-inflammatory and I have an inflammatory autoimmune disease (psoriatic arthritis). I also have type 2 diabetes and, assuming you go easy on the carbs, it’s great for that too. Inflammation and diabetes increase risk for cardiovascular disease, and there’s quite a bit of research that suggests that the Mediterranean diet is great at helping to mitigate that risk.
To that point, the Mediterranean diet is perhaps the most researched diet out there. There’s a good bit of data–way more so than trendier diets like paleo, keto, and so forth–and it comes quite highly recommended. That doesn’t mean a Mediterranean diet is necessarily superior to all of those newer, trendier diets, by the way. It means we don’t know yet because the data is lacking.
Anyway, a low-carb Mediterranean diet has worked out incredibly well for me. That along with solid care and treatment (including prescribed medications) from people with M.D. after their name. I have a really brutal, cruel, nasty, life-wrecking disease and these people–especially my rheumatologist–have helped me tremendously.
I feel the need to make this latter point since there is so much scientific denialism out there these days (especially regarding health and diet). If you have health issues see an actual doctor: a person with a doctorate in medicine (M.D.) from an accredited medical school who respects the scientific method and practices evidence-based medicine.
But I digress! I think we were discussing Veracruz sauce.
Veracruz Sauce: Mexican Mediterranean Cuisine
All of this talk of the Mediterranean diet aside, and I think I’ve confessed this before on this blog, my favorite cuisine in the world is Mexican cuisine. If I could only eat one world cuisine for the rest of my life and nothing else mattered but sheer eating pleasure, I would pick Mexican food. Seriously. Nothing satisfies like Mexican food.
Unfortunately, from a healthy foods perspective Mexican cuisine is sort of a mixed bag for me. Some of it is really healthy, but a lot of it tends to be pretty carb-heavy. Beans, rice, corn, wheat. Tortillas and breads. It’s also super caloric. I have a hard time eating Mexican food regularly without gaining weight.
That said, I don’t only want to eat the traditional foods of North Africa, the Middle East, and Southern Europe (not that you couldn’t!). A person wants a bit of Japanese cuisine now and then, or some some Indian food, or Ukranian food, or Sichuan Chinese, or…well you get the idea.
I eat these other cuisines. When I do, however, I try to interpret them in the Mediterranean style. Whole vegetables and fruits. Fish and poultry over red meats. If there is fat, I try to use extra virgin olive oil. If there are grains I try to use whole grains (sparingly). You get the idea. I’m not super strict about it, but I am somewhat strict.
Well Veracruz sauce already does this. That is, it’s Mediterranean style by design. In fact, it seems more Mediterranean than Mexican (at least to me).
Veracruz Sauce and Seafood
Veracruz sauce is a tomato based sauce that contains onions, garlic, olives, capers, raisins, and extra virgin olive oil. Yes! Sounds…Spanish. This shouldn’t be a shocker. The Spanish colonized much of North and South America. And the Portuguese and the French and the British. It wasn’t pretty by any means (slave trade, genocide, theft of land from indigenous people), but it happened. It also ignited all of that Columbian Exchange business. New World stuff went to the Old World, and vice versa.
Those tomatoes that are so common in just about all Mediterranean cuisine? Those aren’t from the Mediterranean. Those are from the Americas. Same with potatoes and chili peppers and corn.
Anyway, Veracruz sauce is very Old World Spanish. There are Spanish and Sicilian dishes that combine olives, capers, and raisins. In fact, this Spanish escabeche recipe does so. You don’t see it a lot in Mexican food though. But you do in Veracruz sauce. Of course there are also jalapeños.
Given that Varacruz is on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, Veracruz sauce is usually served over fish (it’s used as a sauce for chicken as well). Because I live in the Pacific Northwest I don’t have easy access to gulf coast red snapper, so I used rockfish. Red snapper is a rockfish, so it’s a close approximation. If you have access to red snapper for your Veracruz sauce, have at it.
- 4 Red Snapper fillets (or any other rockfish)
- 3 Tablespoons White Vinegar
- 1 Medium White Onion, peeled and diced
- 3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Pound of Ripe Whole Tomatoes (about 4 large tomatoes), diced.
- 3 Cloves Garlic, minced
- 2 Jalapeño Chilies, stems removed, sliced into long strips
- 4 Bay Leaves
- ½ Teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 Cup Castelvetrano Olives (or other green olives)
- ¼ Cup Pickled Capers
- ½ Cup Raisins
- Fresh Cilantro and Lime Wedges for garnish
- Saute the onion in olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When onions become translucent add the garlic and cook a few minutes more. Add the tomatoes, jalapeño Chilies, spices, olives, capers, raisins, and salt and pepper. Cook until tomatoes are soft. This can be made up to a day ahead of time and reheated
- Add a cup of water to a large skillet and heat until barely simmering. Add the vinegar. Lightly salt the fish fillets and place in the water to poach. Cook just until cooked through (about 4 or 5 minutes).
- Gently remove the fillets. Plate each topped with Veracruz sauce. Garnish with cilantro and fresh squeeze lime juice.