The tasty marinade is the secret behind this irresistible Yucatan-style baked fish.
Although I have never been lucky enough to visit the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, I have prepared many recipes with the flavors of this region. One example is cochinita pibil, which is pork is marinated in a mix of achiote, sour orange, habanero chiles and spices, then wrapped in banana leaves and slow-cooked until it is fall-apart tender. But yucatecos are not only known for their pork, but for their fresh fish that is also marinated, wrapped and grilled on a wood-fire grill. The most common method is to grill the whole fish and not fillets. For this recipe, I am sharing a home cook's version of Yucatan Baked Fish. A little prep, a short marinating time and a short time in the oven is all it takes to enjoy some of the flavors popular in the Yucatan.
For the Marinade:
1tablespoon achiote (annatto) paste(substitute with 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of annatto powder if paste is not available)
In the blender, combine all of the ingredients for the marinade. Blend on high until smooth, taste for salt and set aside. Lightly season the fish with salt and pepper on both sides and place in a large baking dish. Pour marinade over to coat evenly, cover and chill for at least 2 hours.
In a glass bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the pickled onions. Push onions gently down into the lime/oil mixture. Cover and set aside at room temperature. Toss to mix after an hour.
Preheat a large stove top grill pan or griddle to medium heat for 5 minutes. When hot, drizzle with olive oil, add as many of the vegetables onto pan as will fit, minus the tomatoes. You want them to have direct contact with the hot surface. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook for a five minutes per side or until they just start to caramelize. Remove from heat. Add the tomatoes to hot pan and cook for just 20 to 30 seconds per side. Remove from heat.
When fish has marinated, remove from refrigerator at least 30 minutes before baking. Preheat oven to 400ºF. In a large baking pan, add all of the tomatoes to cover the bottom of pan. Divide the grilled vegetables in half. Spread first half evenly over tomatoes. Add marinated fish on the next layer. Spoon out some of the leftover marinade over the top. Add the remaining vegetables, juice of 1 lime, a drizzle of olive oil, pinch of salt and pepper. If there is any marinade left, drizzle a little more over the top layer. Cover with foil paper. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes.
Uncover and bake for another 6 to 8 minutes. Remove form oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with your favorite rice, avocado and cilantro for garnish.
If you are in a hurry, you could add the vegetables raw, but cooking them ahead of time gives them much more flavor.
The pickled red onions can be prepared the day before for a longer marinade time.
Not only for this recipe, but they are delicious on any fish recipe.