The city on Mexico’s east coast, Veracruz, is known for its seafood. In its famous Pescado a la Veracruzana, the sauce is a delicious combo of tomatoes, onions, capers, olives, herbs and a little spice. Rick Bayless, in “Authenic Mexican,” says nowhere is it better than where it was born.
“It’s only in the seaside home … that I’ve tasted the beautifully light, distinctively veracruzana sauce with its special lilt of herbs and spices,” says Bayless.
So, for this recipe, which is one of our own (though we thank Rick Bayless for some of the inspiration) we might say that it is “sort of” in the style of Veracruz. It uses many of the veracruzana ingredients, but ends up mixed together with rice and resembling more a casserole. And, instead of red snapper, we use shrimp.
Shrimp and Rice Veracruz Style
1 cup long grain white rice
1/4 white onion, diced and sauteed
1 large clove garlic, minced and sauteed.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium white onion, peeled and diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 -3 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 roasted chile poblano, peeled, seeded and cut into short slices
1 jalapeño, seeded and diced (leave some of the seeds in if you want spicy heat)
1 roasted red pepper, cut into short slices (canned red pepper is OK)
1 15-ounce can tomatoes, processed by hand or machine (not so that it is frothy, just so it is processed into small pieces, with juice)
1 tablespoon mixed fresh herbs, such as thyme, Mexican oregano, cilantro, parsley and marjoram
1/2 bay leaf (remember to take this out of the dish when through cooking)
1/2 a cinnamon stick (remember to take this out before serving)
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 pound shrimp (uncooked), peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons capers, drained
15 olives (Spanish, with pimento filling is OK)
Salt, if needed
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro
For the rice: Put the cup of rice into 2 cups water in a saucepan on the stove, add to it the onion and garlic. Bring to a simmer, stir and cover tightly with a lid, turning the heat down a bit so that it doesn’t boil over. Cook 15 or 20 minutes until it is done. Remove the lid and let it cool down some.
For the sauce and shrimp: Pour the olive oil into a large, nonstick skillet and sauté together the onion, green pepper and garlic. When these have cooked a minute or two, put in the sliced poblano, jalapeño and red pepper. Cook another minute or so. Add the tomatoes along with the herbs, bay leaf, allspice and pepper and let simmer for a few minutes. Add shrimp, along with the capers and olives and cook a few more minutes until the shrimp is firm and pink. Add half of the fresh cilantro at the end of cooking and take out the cinnamon stick and the bay leaf. Taste for seasoning and add salt, if needed – the capers and olives are salty — and you probably won’t need to use much added salt.
Put the rice into a large bowl. Stir the hot sauce and cooked shrimp into the bowl and fold the sauce and rice together. Sprinkle on a little more cilantro and serve.
Serves 6 or more
From Bonnie Walker
Photographs by Bonnie Walker