theHubs and I went out to dinner recently, where I ordered a dish called Mahi-Mahi Veracruz, a fish dish with a new (to me) kicked-up style of tomato-based sauce. Normally I almost never order fish with a tomato-based sauce, since (to me) most restaurant tomato-based sauces taste more like watered-down marinara sauce, but with less flavor. A few rare times I had fish baked Parmesan-style, where the cheeses cover up the taste of the watery marinara sauce, but generally I skip the sauce. But something about the pretentious description of Veracruz sauce was intriguing--if memory serves me correctly (and it usually doesn't), something to the effect of "a tomato-wine reduction infused with capers and olives" intrigued me, so I threw caution to the wind and had a go.
Hoo-boy! The menu description should have come with a warning sticker about the level of heat. Extremely spicy! I like spicy, but this dish was nu-cle-ar! There must have at least been a dozen jalapeños in each little forkful, give or take.
But when the burning finally calmed down, the true taste of the sauce finally peeked through. The olives and capers did a dance inside my mouth! It was so spectacular that I resolved to recreate the dish at home.
Fire-roasted tomatoes sound ... fiery, but don't worry. The tomatoes are supposedly grilled over a flame giving them a slightly singed appearance and a touch of smoky flavor. If you don't have fire-roasted tomatoes available, use the regular stuff, and add a pinch of smoked paprika to approximate the flavor.
thHubs doesn't care for very spicy food, and although normally I like spicy heat, I wasn't in the mood for killing myself again so soon. So to please both our palates I reached for the much milder (but with mucho flavor) green chillies.
Fresh mah-mahi at the fish counter was nonexistent, so I subbed flounder into the recipe with very good results. Flounder tends to shrink significantly during the cooking process, so allow 2 small fillets per person. Feel free to use any other mild-tasting fish you prefer instead, such as tilapia, in which case allow 1-2 fillets per person, depending upon size (of the fillet, not the person).
Flounder with Veracruz Sauce
Yield: 4 servings
3 Tbl. olive oil, divided
1 small yellow onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
2 garlic cloves, chopped (about 2 teaspoons, bottled okay)
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. paprika
1 (14.5 oz.) cans fire roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
1 Tbl. canned diced green chillies
1/2 cup dry white wine
4-8 flounder fillets, depending upon size
1/4 cup finely chopped black olives
2 Tbl. capers
2 Tbl. fresh lime juice
2 Tbl. chopped fresh parsley (or cilantro), for garnish
Preheat broiler. Lightly grease a medium-sized rimmed baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Set aside.
Heat skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add remaining olive oil. Wait 10 seconds, then add diced onion. Saute onions for 5 minutes, or until they soften. Add garlic and saute another 30 seconds. Add oregano and paprika; saute an additional 30 seconds.
Add tomatoes, their juice and the chopped chilies. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer until liquid reduces almost entirely, 5-10 minutes. Add wine; simmer for an additional 5 minutes or until sauce reduces almost completely (when a spoon is drawn across the skillet it leaves a "trail." Remove from heat. Stir in olives and capers. Cover and keep warm.
While sauce is reducing, place fillets in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Lightly brush with remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Place baking sheet on middle rack in oven. Broil 8-10 minutes or until fish is cooked through and just barelly begins to brown. If necessary, move sheet to top rack for 1 minute.
Plate fish, 1-2 fillets depending upon size, per serving. Spoon sauce over fillets. Drizzle with lime juice and sprinkle with parsley or cilantro, if desired, just before serving.