Foods of Veracruz

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Nancy Zaslavsky is a culinary tour guide with an obsession for the culture, people and foods of Mexico.  She shares a few recipes from the state of Veracruz, a southeastern province on the Gulf of Mexico with beautiful hills of coffee growing estates, banana trees and flatlands of coastal pineapple plantations.  With such rich agricultural resources, Nancy finds unforgettable local food specialties, restaurants and markets.  More information about her tours, books and recipes are available on Nancy’s website.

Huachinango Veracruzana (Snapper Fillets in the Style of Veracruz)
Serves 6

For the sauce:

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 white onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 jalapeño chiles
4 red-ripe plum tomatoes, chopped
½ cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
12 capers, plus some jar juice
10 large Spanish green olives (pitted), with or without pimento, coarsely chopped
3 bay leaves

1. Heat the oil in a very large skillet. Add the onions and sauté until translucent.  Stir in the garlic and cook until golden.

2. Stem and chop (with seeds) one of the chiles and stir it into the onions along with the  tomatoes, parsley, capers, (plus 1 tablespoon liquid from the jar), olives and bay leaves. Simmer 15 minutes, uncovered. Taste for salt and seasoning. If you want a spicier sauce chop the other chile and add it to the thickened sauce.

For the fish:

6 red snapper fillets (6 ounces each, ½-inch-thick)
½ cup coarsely chopped cilantro
2 limes (Mexican, a.k.a. Key lime, if possible)

1. Slide the fillets into the sauce (overlapping a bit), cover and cook about 5 minutes. Remove the lid and cook another minute until ALMOST done (not totally opaque) at the thickest part.

2. Transfer one fillet, using a large spatula, onto 6 serving plates and surround with sauce. Scatter with cilantro leaves and garnish with a few lime wedges. The fish is traditionally served with steamed white rice.

Tiny New Potatoes with Caramelized Garlic
Serves 6 to 8, as botanas (cocktail snacks) on toothpicks

2 pounds baby potatoes, 1-inch maximum
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup coarsely chopped garlic (about one head)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
8 grinds black pepper
½ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1 lime (Mexican, a.k.a. Key lime, if possible)

1. Bring 3 quarts salted water to a boil and add the potatoes. Cook with the cover askew until done, about 20 minutes. Drain well and blot dry with towels.

2. Heat the olive oil in a wide skillet. Carefully roll the potatoes into the oil and sauté until golden, shaking the skillet from time to time to lightly brown all over.

3. Stir in the garlic, lower the heat , and slowly simmer until the garlic turns deep golden and is sticky and caramelized. Carefully scoop the potatoes and all of the garlic into a shallow serving bowl (leave behind any remaining oil). Sprinkle on the salt, black pepper and parsley, and then gently stir, covering the potatoes with seasoning.

To serve:
Serve either warm or at room temperature. At the last second, sprinkle a wedge of fresh lime juice over. Serve with toothpicks.

Recipes courtesy of Nancy Zaslavsky