Pescado con Vino
White Wine-Marinated Fish
I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again – there’s room in the world for more than one fish taco. Oh sure, the fried-fish Baja-style taco with shredded cabbage and pico de gallo is deserving of its status as an unparalleled classic in the Mexican food pantheon. But I think I can speak comfortably for all seafood lovers when I say that we’re doing ourselves a disservice by focusing so much of our attention on that one (admittedly delicious) recipe. So when the opportunity arose to develop a new recipe with Nobilo Wines and the Marine Stewardship Council my mind turned (as it often does) to all things taco. It wasn’t tough coming up with ideas really – the pairing of Nobilo’s bright, crisp Sauvignon Blanc and MSC certified fish was full of wonderful (and affordable!) land-meets-sea potential. So with tacos, fish, and Sauvignon Blanc in my head (not literally mind you – I paced myself on the wine) I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do from the outset. And yet, it was actually surprisingly tricky to research Mexican fish recipes for inspiration. It seems that the omnipresent Baja fish taco has so thoroughly planted itself in the minds of English-speaking taco-lovers around the world that it absolutely dominates search results. Thankfully, some careful word choice, Spanish-language googling, and old-school offline research (namely reading through my ever-growing collection of cookbooks), gave me some good leads and culinary starting points. Eventually I half-remembered/half-stumbled across a wonderful recipe called Pescado Rodrigo. The talented (and ridiculously-nice-in-person) Pati Jinich has a recipe for it in her wonderful cookbook Pati’s Mexican Table, where she describes it as a beloved classic in Mexico City. The original recipe use lightly bread and pan-fried fish fillets dressed with a scallion, olive oil, and citrus salsa loaded with cilantro. It’s one of those great versatile recipes, working equally well in tacos or as the main on a plate, and coming together in a snap to boot. With Pescado Rodrigo as my starting point, I looked to the Mediterranean-infused cuisine of Veracruz in order to create a recipe that really worked with Nobilo’s crisp Sauvignon Blanc. The white wine swaps in for the citrus (though some lime juice is retained), and fresh oregano takes over for cilantro. Serrano peppers add a distinctive New World kick without ramping up the heat too much. Finally, I wanted to add a bright and tangy punch to round things out, so I turned to what might well be my favourite taco condiment: a good quick-pickled onion. This particular pickled onion is also made with white wine and oregano (another bit of Mexican-meets-Mediterranean fusion, though with a more Yucatecan twist), and is way too tasty given how little effort it requires. It doesn’t hurt that it’s pretty stunning on the plate either.
This isn’t the first time I’ve explored Veracruz-style seafood; the heavy focus on olive oil and other Mediterranean ingredients combines with African, Caribbean, and native Mexican elements to make a really wonderful and uniquely Mexican food culture. A number of the ingredients in this recipe can be found in my halibut escabeche, – another recipe that does double-duty as a taco filling or stand-alone main course. But the escabeche is definitely a slow-food sort of experience, whereas this recipe comes together very quickly, making it ideal meal for a weeknight dinner. You can also easily increase or decrease the serving size, making it nicely adaptable to your situation. Add in the fact that it gives you an excuse to open up a bottle of wine, and honestly what more could one ask for? Best of all, when you bite into that taco and toast with a glass of wine, you’ll know that you’re making a difference by focusing on sustainability. So cheers to that.
Teach a Man to Fish…
I always consider potential partners carefully when I take on sponsored work. Diversivore is and always will be focused on cooking from scratch while exploring the social and biological implications of the food we eat, and I hope my choice in collaborators reflects that. So when I had a chance to work with the Marine Stewardship Council I was quite pleased. They were open to any of their certified sustainable, ocean-friendly seafood being used here (which makes me happy, because I love me some options), but I was drawn to sole because of it’s agreeably mild flavour, ease of cooking, accessibility, and ability to really soak up flavours. There are a number of other fish options you could consider (more on that in the Recipe Notes below), but regardless of the direction you choose to go in you’ll want to look for the MSC blue fish label on your packaging. That label (which you can see in the photo below) indicates that the fish in question comes from a fishery that has been assessed based on a number of sustainability-focused metrics and determined to be a good environmental choice. MSC certified fish can be found at hundreds of different grocery retailers on a wide variety of products, so don’t be afraid to do a bit of exploring. Here in Canada you’ll find a lot of products from a diversity of brands at Loblaws stores, Whole Foods, Costco, Walmart, Sobeys, and more. Given that seafood is an inherently biodiverse and complex food for consumers to work with, it’s wonderful to be able to rely on a certification system to help you make environmentally conscious decisions. If you want to explore more sustainable seafood recipes, I’ve got a whole collection of my own right here, and another collection from a group of other bloggers right here.
Wine & Dine
Let’s talk wine, shall we? White wine and white fish go hand-in-hand, but you tend to see the pairing in classically European dishes. Interestingly, Mexico has a long history with wine (thanks primarily to Spanish colonialism and the wine-making efforts of the early Jesuits), but it hasn’t been a big wine-consuming culture until more recently. A rising middle-class coupled with increased attention toward some stellar wine-growing regions is starting to give wine a more prominent place in the Mexican market. I figure that this is only going to lead to more and more interesting flavour pairings, as there are plenty of bright and distinctive ingredients in Mexican cooking that pair quite nicely with a fresh, crisp white like Sauvignon Blanc. And as it stands, the aforementioned Mediterranean influence seen in the Mexican cuisine of the Gulf Coast is already crying out for wine pairings. Nobilo produces a classic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with a crisp, bright, dry profile. It’s got a citrusy tang and melon notes, along with more subtle fruity tropical flavours. Basically it’s an ideal white for this type of marinade/salsa. My fellow Canadians can find it in British Columbia at BC liquor stores and private retailers, and in Ontario at LCBO, Sobeys, and Loblaws locations.
Whether I’m diving into a complex culinary experiment or working with the simplest of weeknight-friendly recipes, I’m all about giving you the details you need to really nail the recipes on Diversivore. Fortunately this recipe is pretty darned easy to put together, so if you’re feeling confident already you can jump right to the recipe below. But if you’re looking for information about variations or the methods involved, I’ve got you covered.
As I mentioned above, this recipe is inspired by a classic from Mexico City called Pescado Rodrigo. That dish doesn’t marinade the fish, instead frying the fillet separately before dressing it with an olive oil and citrus based sauce. I didn’t want to bread the fish, so I decided alter the cooking style and flavour profile by converting the sauce into a marinade (and then… back into a sauce). The key here is that the marinade is not too terribly acidic, which means that the sole can sit in it for a while without cooking like a ceviche. That being said, the white wine, lime juice, and added vinegar will start to cook the raw fish if left too long, so make sure you plan out your cooking time and try not to leave the fish in the marinade for more than an hour.
If you don’t have access to fresh oregano you can switch up the herbs in this recipe quite nicely. A good flat-leaf parsley would be nice, though a little simple. Cilantro is a classic Mexican ingredient of course, and would work nicely here too, though it tends to be better uncooked, so I would consider using less of it in the marinade and instead simply sprinkling it over the finished dish. You can also use dried oregano in the marinade, but do so with caution. Dried oregano can have a more intense flavour than fresh, so you’ll want to decrease the amount you use. I would personally only use about 2 teaspoons.
If you’re pressed for time, you can take a step back towards Pescado Rodrigo by skipping the marinating step, frying the fish separately (breaded or unbreaded), and dressing everything with the salsa (either cooked or uncooked). That being said, if you do choose to marinade the fish, make sure you finish the sauce by cooking the leftover marinade and keeping things food-safe.
Chili peppers work wonderfully with herbs, oil and wine – in fact that’s one of the reasons that Mediterranean influences combine with Mexican cooking so well. I used serrano peppers here because I love the flavour and their moderate heat (four kids ate this meal, so I had to keep the spiciness to a minimum). My serranos seemed especially mild, but overall the small quantity of peppers is spread out in the marinade enough to keep the final dish quite mild. Jalapeño makes a great alternative pepper, and is generally milder than serrano (though do note that they’re generally larger, so you’ll only need one). If you want to ramp the heat up a bit you can add a couple of extra serranos, or a fiery, fruity chili like habanero.
If you feel like you want more heat still, or like you want to ramp up the chili flavour component in this recipe, consider making a dried-chili salsa like my smoky k’uut bi ik. A little goes a long way, and it keeps in the fridge for ages.
The onions are really a second mini-recipe and technically optional, but they’re too easy and too tasty to skip out on. They’re fairly similar to a classic recipe from the Yucatan (which I just happen to have right here on Diversivore), but they use wine and wine vinegar in place of Seville orange juice. The addition of oregano ties the onions to the flavours in the marinade while adding an earthy, herbal note.
The onions really are as easy as can be, but if you’ve got time I would urge you to make them a day ahead. They’re still great as long as they’ve been sitting for at least an hour, but the flavour tends to mellow and blend best after 24 hours. The colour becomes more pink and vibrant too, so that’s a nice touch.
You can swap the red onion for a sweet white onion (e.g. Vidalia). The flavour will be quite similar, though you do lose out on that wonderful colour.
The finished pickled onions will keep in the fridge for weeks, should you happen to end up with extras. They’re great with all kinds of seafood, and on many other types of taco.
Sustainability and Fish Variations
I work with seafood a lot, and sustainability is always one of the first things I’m thinking about. Unlike so many of our foods which have been effectively ‘domesticated,’ seafood is still heavily reliant on wild ecosystems. As such, it’s especially important for us to pay attention to which fisheries are ecologically viable over the long term, and which are depleting natural resources in an unsustainable fashion. MSC certification helps consumers make an environmentally informed choice, allowing them to choose seafood that has come from fisheries that are good for our oceans. Certification involves a detailed chain of custody and is backed up by genetic testing – two important factors in a food industry that has struggled enormously with transparency.
Luckily for those of you who like to experiment a little, MSC certification also covers a broad array of choices. MSC certified seafood covers a broad spectrum, including tuna, haddock, cod, shrimp, salmon, and more. When it comes to this recipe in particular, that gives you a lot of options to work with. Sole and other flatfish like plaice would be my first choice because of the thin profile of the fillets, but other good choices include halibut, cod, haddock, pollock, and tilapia (which is frequently farmed and therefore subject to related ASC [Aquaculture stewardship council] certification). As much as I love salmon and oily fish, I would personally stick with flaky white fish for this recipe. That being said, I think that a good sustainable shrimp variety would make a nice variation.
Any fish fillet can be used in this recipe without changing the cook time substantially. Sole fillets are thin enough to cook quite fast, which makes it easier to cook this for even a large crowd. If you want to cook a thicker, meatier fish like cod or halibut, make sure to adjust your cooking time accordingly.
Note: Nutritional Information is given for a 1/6th portion of the total recipe (3 tacos, including tortillas, fish, marinade/salsa, and onions).
No ingredient pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
No pantry pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
Mexican Recipes on Diversivore
White wine, olive oil, fresh oregano, scallions, and MSC-certified sustainable sole combine with tangy wine-pickled onions for this simple to prepare fish dish that's perfect in tacos or as a stand-alone entree.
- 680 g sole fillets - MSC Certified (or similar MSC certified variety - see notes)
- 1 tbsp olive oil for frying
- 18 corn tortillas for serving (optional)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1.5 tbsp lime juice
- 2 tbsp fresh oregano chopped
- 2 serrano peppers seeded and minced
- 6 large scallions white/light green portions only, thinly sliced
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 large red onion thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup dry white wine (see above)
- 1 tsp fresh oregano chopped
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/8 tsp salt
Combine the thinly sliced onions with the remaining ingredients in a large container. Shake to combine and set aside for at least one hour and up to overnight. The colour and flavour improves with time, so don't be afraid to make these well before you need them.
Combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Lay fillets out in a large dish or plastic bag and pour the marinade over them. Cover and let stand for 1 hour.
Remove the fish fillets from the marinade, brushing off clinging scallions and oregano. Keep the marinade too cook in the next section.
Preheat a large skillet with 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add the fillets a few at a time without crowding the pan. Cook until slightly browned and nearly cooked through (see note if using a thicker fish fillet), then flip and cook for about 2 more minutes. Repeat with remaining fillets.
Once the fish is done, remove it from the pan and add the reserved marinade/salsa. Bring it to a low simmer, then cook for an additional minute. Remove from heat and set aside to serve over the fish.
Heat the corn tortillas in a skillet. Serve pieces of fish in tacos with onions and the finished wine salsa. Alternatively, put all of the fish in a serving tray and scatter with onions and salsa then serve family-style along with tortillas, rice, or another side of your choice.
This recipe is easy to adapt to a number of different white fish varieties, so you can adjust it depending on what you have available. MSC certified sole is generally easy to find, but there are other sustainable options you can explore too (just look for the blue MSC label). If you're using a thicker fish fillet (cod or haddock for example), you'll want to extend the cooking time a little longer both before and after flipping the fish.