In Truly Mexican, Roberto Santibañez takes the vast and varied cuisine of his homeland and breaks it down into sauces and sides. Sort of. His philosophy is that once you understand how to make a few of the sauces, you can make dozens more. And once you have those sauces, they can turn into countless dishes. His recipes are thorough and well-written, and the book includes dishes from across Mexico, like moles from Oaxaca and Mexico City, cooked and fresh salsas, and several adobo sauces.
Active time: 35 minutes (includes making the adobo).
Start to finish: 1 hour 35 minutes (includes making the adobo).
6 (6-ounce) fish fillets or steaks, such as red snapper, black bass, striped bass, bluefish, or salmon
1 teaspoon fine salt or 2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ cup Basic Ancho Adobo (see below)
2 tablespoons mild olive oil or vegetable oil
1 lime, cut into wedges
If you're using fillets, score the skin in a cross-hatch pattern with a sharp knife. Pat the fillets or steaks dry and season them with the salt, then coat both sides with the adobo and let them marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.
Heat a large heavy skillet over medium heat, then add 1 tablespoon of oil and cook 2 to 3 pieces of fish, flesh side down, for 2 minutes. Turn the fish over and cook, pressing down on the fish to stop the fillets from curling (the scored skin will help), until just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the pieces to a baking sheet and keep them warm in the oven while you cook the remaining batches of fish with more oil as necessary.
Squeeze the lime over the fish before serving.
Serve it with corn tortillas, salsa, rice, beans, or any other side dish you like.
This dish is best served right away.
Basic Ancho Adobo
Makes 1½ cups.
Active time: 15 minutes.
Start to finish: 45 minutes.
2 ½ ounces ancho chiles (5), wiped clean, stemmed, slit open, seeded, and deveined
½ cup water for blending, more if necessary
¼ cup Seville orange juice or distilled white vinegar
2 garlic cloves, peeled
½ teaspoon fine salt, or 1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Heat a comal, griddle, or heavy skillet over medium-low heat, and toast the chiles 2 at a time, turning them over and pressing down on them with tongs frequently, until they're fragrant and they've developed light-colored brown blisters, about 1 ½ minutes per batch. Soak the chiles in enough cold water to cover until they're soft, about 30 minutes. Drain and discard the soaking water.
Put the ½ cup of fresh water in the blender jar with the chiles and the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth, at least 3 minutes, adding a little more water if necessary to puree. If you like a silky, smooth texture, strain the adobo through a medium-mesh sieve.
Now you can use this highly flavored puree as a marinade for seafood and meat. Or turn it into a fabulous cooking liquid or sauce for eggs, beans, and enchiladas.
This adobo keeps in the refrigerator for up to five days or in the freezer for up to one month.
(From Truly Mexican, copyright © 2011 by Roberto Santibañez. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.)