Archive | April, 2011

Huachinango Jarocha!

7 Apr

In Veracruz many dishes are served in a boat of banana leaves!

My mother-in-law, Maria del Consuelo Rigo de Garrido, was born in the state of Veracruz to Italian immigrants and moved to Mexico City when she was a young woman –  but in the kitchen she remained a Jarocha. Jarocha or jarocho (depending on gender) is a term applied to people born in the southern coastal regions of Veracruz, an area that is known for its seafood dishes. The cuisine of this region also reflects the influence of the Spaniards who made their entry to the Americas here, bringing olives and olive oil, almonds, and spices from around the world.

Huachinango a la Veracruzana, a typical comida casera or home-cooked dish, is one of the many that Consuelo taught me how to make and it remains a favorite in our household. The authentic recipe, like most Mexican dishes, calls for several hours of sauce simmering, and during the years we lived in Mexico I was all about authentic. However, when we returned to the U.S. and I rejoined the work force I quickly found short cuts that put plates on the table within an hour – without sacrificing too much flavor.

Consuelo returned to live in Veracruz several years ago, to the port of Coatzacoalcos. I have visited her there several times, but I rarely get a chance to try my hand in her kitchen. The next time I’m there I will prepare this “quicker” version of spicy, tomato-sauced Red Snapper for her. We’ll see if it passes her taste test. Vamos a ver!


3 filets Red Snapper

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups fresh salsa picante (bottled works, but not as well)

1 14 oz. can of diced canned tomatoes with juice

2 cloves garlic, diced

½ cup sliced olives (large pimiento stuffed)

1 bunch cilantro

Salt to taste

Lime quarters

Pour olive oil into large skillet with a glass cover. When oil is warm add fresh salsa. If you can only find “mild” salsa you may add chopped jalapeno or serrano chiles, depending on your taste. Saute until onions are soft and add diced tomatoes, garlic and olives. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes and salt to taste. Do not add salt until this step is complete, as olives may vary in salt content.

Place Red Snapper filets, skin side (shiny side) down on sauce and simmer without cover for 2 minutes.

Turn filets, scoop sauce over fish and cover. Simmer for 3 minutes.

Open skillet and cover fish with clean cilantro, stems and all. Cover, bring to boil and turn off burner (cilantro is a fragrant herb and overcooking results in zero flavor). When cilantro has wilted the dish is ready to serve…either removing the cilantro or serving it on the side.

This dish is traditionally served with white rice and lime. I used a brown rice pilaf and served it all up with braised broccoli rabe. The lime juice, squeezed over the entire dish, adds a fresh, piquant flavor to the entire plate.

Buen provecho!


The Delectable Pisco Sour

2 Apr

While visiting South America last month, I enjoyed a couple of Pisco Sours and decided that I would start making them when I got home. Yesterday was the perfect unseasonably hot spring day in which to serve them up, so off I went to BevMo to pick up some Pisco Puro.

Pisco is a strong, clear brandy distilled from “pisco” grapes. It originated over 400 years ago in the Pisco Valley of Peru, where wine grapes were first brought to the land during the Spanish conquest. Due to the ideal growing conditions, a healthy wine-producing industry developed. So healthy, in fact, that the imports from Peru began to threaten Spain’s own wine production, leading King Felipe II to place a ban on the trade of Peruvian wine. Consequently, Peruvian growers began distilling and exporting this grape-based liquor.

During the Gold Rush, merchant ships plied the waters between California and Peru, bringing Pisco to the thirsty souls who inhabited San Francisco. The owner of the Bank Exchange Saloon, Duncan Nicol, is said to have developed the popular Pisco Punch, and travelers such as Mark Twain and Rudyard Kipling lauded the drink.

Patrons enjoying Pisco cocktails at the Bank Exchange Saloon in 1891.

In 1889 Rudyard Kipling immortalized Pisco Punch writing that it “is compounded of the shavings of cherub’s wings, the glory of a tropical dawn, the red clouds of sunset and the fragments of lost epics by dead masters.”

I looked at several recipes for Pisco Sour and used this one to create our tasty late afternoon cocktails. I used Pisco Puro by Don Cesar, and our Vitamix blender on high speed, which does a great job with icy blended drinks. This recipe says it is for two drinks, but it actually made slightly over 4 champagne flutes full. I’d say it’s a recipe for four.


  • 4 cups ice cubes
  • 1 cup Pisco Puro
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • A good dash of aromatic bitters

Place ice cubes, pisco, lemon juice, sugar, egg white, and bitters in the bowl of a blender. Blend on high speed until finely pureed. Pour into two glasses and garnish with an additional dash of bitters.