November 24, 2011 Thanksgiving Dinner – Stuffed Red Snapper baked in a salt crust
Suzette saw a recipe in Eating Well on the plane for salt encrusted fish, so we went to one of the fish markets in Sayulita and bought four small Red Snappers. The street was closed off and there was a huge band playing Mariachi Music in front of the Chile Rellenos Restaurant and across the bridge on the other side of town was a huge parade in support of voting green in the local election, so little Sayulita was in a very festive mood. We stopped a new bakery (Panaderia) and purchased a chocolate croissant. Then took our fish back to the house and we went on the back road to the Coral Highway (Carraterra Coral) on the north side of Punta Mita, which lies at the northern tip of the Bay of Banderas, where there is a coral reef offshore. The CarraCoral has been formed by the wave action tearing off pieces of coral and pushing them to shore, where they aggregate at the high tide line forming a road like strata of white.
The other reason Suzette and I like the CarraCoral is because it is located on one of the most beautiful bays in Mexico. A sweep of pure white sand about five miles long with a very flat beach that is ideal for walking and because we have found so many cowries on its beach. We walked to our favorite spot beyond the first bend where there is a channel that runs out to a line of rocks that block the waves and is very calm and only about three feet deep out to a distance of about 150 feet. Since the water is warmer and calmer in this protected area the fish are abundant. After eating some of our leftover sandwiches from the 23rd and drinking a beer, we put on our snorkeling masks and went into the water.
Just as we had hoped the fish were abundant. I saw lots of a purple fish and silver dollar shaped fish with two black strips across their bodies. Suzette saw a large parrot fish and several different fish. We both agreed that it was the best snorkeling in years. We then drove to Punta Mita to buy gas and found none, but as we drove toward Cruz and the National Highway, we passed a Pemex station under construction just like the one at the Sayulita turnoff. After gassing up at La Cruz, we drove back to Sayulita via the jungle highway and stopped in town, where we found fresh string beans and bought onions and garlic, celery, raisins and dried coconut and bolillos.
When we arrived at home we found that Luke had made a dessert of galletas (round butter cookies), condensed milk and lime juice for our Thanksgiving Dinner. After drinking a lovely strawberry Daiquiri that Suzette made we started cooking. The first dish was the dressing. Suzette combined two stale bolillos cut into one inch cubes with about one cup each of chopped celery, onion, parsley, (sauteed till wilted in butter) and four beaten eggs. We then stuffed the fish and Suzette mixed one kilo of kosher salt with one cup of water and a hand full of parsley and then added some more regular salt to thicken the salt batter so it would adhere to the fish. Then she coated the four fish with the batter and folded them into packets of aluminum foil and placed them on a baking rack in a 350°F oven to bake for thirty minutes (See recipe). Luke then snapped the string beans and I cut flowerlets from the cauliflower and cubed one large white potato.
As the vegetables boiled and the fish baked, I asked Luke what he wished to drink and he said, “Something pink!”, so I opened a bottle of Guigal Côtes du Rhone Rose 2010. It was fruity, yet had a lot of character and complexity, characteristic of Rhone wines with their distinctive mixture of grapes. It was a fun drink even if it overpowered the tender fish a bit.
When thirty minutes had passed, we removed the packets of salt covered fish from the oven and tore them open. I tried to carefully remove all of the salt from the fish. It was easy where there was skin, but more difficult where it covered the dressing. I then filleted the fish by removing their skin and taking the fillets off the central bone and removing the bones in the dorsal fin areas. I laid the fish fillets on a plate and put the dressing with the fillets and then Suzette added some string beans and some of the potato and cauliflower mixture. It made a lovely plate (See picture). The fish was very tender and we agreed that it was not as watery as poached fish and not as dry as baked fish. So it appears that the salt holds the juices in the fish. What we are not sure about is whether the same effect can be obtained by simply wrapping a whole fish in aluminum foil and baking it without the salt.
We lit candles on the patio outside our house and ate the tender fish with vegetables under starlight in the middle of the jungle and counted ourselves very thankful. After dinner, Luke served the dessert he made and we sipped brandy with it. A lovely Thanksgiving meal.
Mucho Gracias por todo