“It’s a feast!” Prepare whole fish for a superb summer dish | Delight

ORLANDO, Fla. — A whole fish, says Wendy Lopez, is a show.

“It’s something special,” she said. “You take it out and put it on the table and there’s that wow factor – it’s a feast!”

Lopez, whose executive role at Reyes Mezcaleria was recently expanded to Chef Partner (likely in part because of signature dishes like Mediterranean sea bass pibil wrapped in banana leaves), says it’s a perfect feast for your dinner table. summer – lighter and fresher than the pork with which this deep, earthy sauce is often associated – and much easier to cook than its impressive presentation would suggest.

Its transition to a partner role was also easier than it looks, thanks to a consistent staff, support from the top and a family foundation of hospitality.

“My parents are restaurant owners, so I’ve always had that mentality, treating the restaurant like it’s my own – my money, my staff, holding myself accountable and Jason (Chin, of Good Salt Restaurant Group) us always made it feel like we were owners and partners on every level so the transition was simple I feel important as a moving part of the restaurant but it takes a million people to run this place.

It’s also about good relationships, Lopez says, which she says also contributes to the ease of cooking fish at home.

“The first step is to know your fishmonger,” she notes. “Whether you shop at Publix or Lombardi or wherever you choose to go, you have to build a relationship with the people who work there and get used to asking questions: ‘Hey, what’s up? fees today? What is the season? What would you recommend?'”

The seafood professionals are also extremely knowledgeable when it comes to preparation and are happy to answer your questions.

“You can even give them information about the flavor profile you’re looking for. If you’re looking to avoid fat, don’t buy salmon. If you want lightness and freshness, you can try halibut, grouper or snapper. They’re also great at directing you to things that are local to Florida.

And while the whole fish looks extremely impressive (and if you ask me, better, because of that crispy skin and its insulating properties when the flesh cooks inside), you can still choose to make the recipe below with nets instead. Either way, there are lessons to be learned about native Mexican cuisine.

“Everyone knows Mexico City, everyone knows Baja California, and I like to focus on equally beautiful areas that have had an impact on culture.”

Lopez calls Veracruz “the Italy of Mexico”, in part because of the use of tomatoes in its cuisine, and something that gives it a pibil touch. Instead of pairing the vinegar with citrus for multi-layered acidity, it substitutes the tomato.

“I like the flavor the char imparts and it gives the dish sweetness and fruitiness with that acidity and helps with the texture of the sauce.”

Banana leaves offer more than their sensual properties — “an almost grassy, ​​fruity scent,” Lopez says — but gentle insulation from the scorching heat of the oven. You’ll find them fresh at many of the city’s local Asian and Latin markets, “but you can also buy them in the frozen section,” says Lopez, who has spotted them at Publix on occasion.

“It’s as good as it is fresh. You thaw them in the fridge, spread them out and you’re good to go. They will get a little wet, but that’s fine because it will help steam it – plus it won’t catch fire.

Neither will your taste buds. Although puerco pibil and habaneros are best friends, Lopez’s lighter version doesn’t push the heat level.

“This sauce is very tasty, but accessible. I want to make sure the fish sings, that its flavor really comes out. At the end of the day, we want all the ingredients to be known and tasted.

On the table, the dish is accompanied by simple accompaniments: marinated onions, coriander and rice. Feel free to also serve tortillas. There is no dual fuel in Mexico.

“A tortilla never looks like a carb. It’s a spoon,” Lopez jokes. “Tortillas are silverware!”

PIBIL WHOLE FISH

Ingredients

A whole 2-3 pound fish of your choice. Ask your fishmonger to scale and gut it. You can also use nets.

For the sauce

2 Roma tomatoes, split

1/2 white onion

3 cloves of garlic

10 dried guajillo peppers, destemmed and seeded

2 ounces of achiote paste

1 cup orange juice

1/2 cup fresh lime juice

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

2 bay leaves

1 sprig of oregano

1/4 cup honey

Salt to taste

Instructions for the sauce

Place tomatoes and onion in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat for 3-6 minutes or until charred, adding the garlic for the last minute or two.

Remove from the heat and all the other ingredients except the honey. Cook the ingredients for 15-20 minutes until reduced by half.

Turn off the heat and stir in the honey. Leave to cool a little.

Place the mixture in the blender and blend until smooth. Let cool.

Season the fish of your choice with salt and pepper, both sides for fillets or inside and out for whole fish. Exterior score (see photo).

Using some of the sauce mixture as a marinade, coat the fish on both sides/inside and out.

Wrap the fish in banana leaves and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 135 degrees. Carefully unwrap the leaves and add more sauce mixture. Return the fish to the oven for 2 to 4 minutes to obtain a crust.

Serve with pickled onions and cilantro as garnish, along with a side of your favorite rice and tortillas.