Friday, July 6, 2012

Veracruz-Style Red Snapper – A New Take on a Very Old Classic

Fish “Veracruz” was the first “authentic” Mexican recipe I ever ate. I had it 30 years ago at the Casa Del Sol in Saranac Lake, NY, where I worked while enrolled in culinary school. 

I remember trying and loving it, and being very surprised that “this” was actually Mexican food. Besides…olives on fish? That was some crazy stuff.

Up to that point, the only “Mexican” food I’d ever had was crispy cafeteria tacos made by completely non-Mexican lunch ladies. So, this kind of thing was very exciting for me. I’ve forgotten the exact recipe after all these years of adaptation, but that’s of little consequence as it’s the kind of dish you make a little different every time anyway.

I like red snapper for this, but any white, flaky fish will work. By the way, many Veracruz-style fish recipes call for pickled jalapenos, but I think there’s plenty of acidity in this from the lime and tomatoes, so I like the fresh pepper a little more.

If you don’t want to do this in individual portions like I did, you can certainly do it in a regular casserole dish, but you’ll probably need to give it a few extra minutes. Simply use the same fork-flaking doneness test as shown in the clip. Flakiness never lies.

This food wish goes out to all of you that asked for flavorful, foolproof fish recipes. I’m not sure why people get so scared to cook fish, but if you’re one of them, this is for you. Other than a few minutes of slicing, this couldn’t be easier. Serve simply with some chips, or over rice for a more substantial meal. Either way, I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 2 servings:
2 boneless red snapper filets, about 7 oz each
cayenne, salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon caper brine
1 large jalapeno, sliced, seeded
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup sliced Castelvetrano green olives, or any green olive
2 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano
2 limes
*Bake at 425 degrees F. for 15-20 minutes

View the complete recipe


Mark said...

Looks amazing, thanks for another great recipe.

Mark. (Ireland)

Rita said...

i am drooling, just by looking at that video. that is one good looking dish, if i may say so.

by the way, i'm sure i could substitute any flaky-type fish for this recipe, right? seafood is kind of expensive here, from where i live in germany.

PrimeBrit said...

Beautiness ;) You rock Chef, we get new dishes AND new words!

Steve said...


In your commentary, you said something to the effect that the seeds in the pepper carried the heat. My understanding from watching Alton Brown was "[y]ou don't take them out so much because they're hot, but because they are indigestible and hard and nasty."

BTW, you're a braver man than I for cutting peppers, even the relatively mild jalapeno, without gloves. Every time I do that, I end up sticking my finger in my eye.

Dimitri H. Masson said...

Hi chef, this looks amazing! I'll try that for sure.

On a side note, the rss post lack the video (not sure why...) the rest is fine (image and text).

Love, from France

Chris K. said...

Red snapper is severely over-fished and should be avoided. Luckily there are lots of alternative choices that are less harmful.

For more information about choosing sustainable seafood at the supermarket, download a Seafood Watch pocket guide:

Chef John said...

Thanks Chris, ...just wait until my Chilean Sea Bass post! ;-)

Anonymous said...

this looks incredible. I'm gonna make this with some tilapia (its cheap around here), and maybe some fresh basil as well. BTW, were still waiting for the braised lentils you promised us a while ago. Can't wait for that.

Chef John said...

btw, kidding aside..,I believe that's the true Gulf of Mexico snapper which is in the worst shape. There are other local varieties that are ok options. Check with your fish guys!

Chef John said...

Lentils are airing in a few weeks!

cookinmom said...

You put the camera so close that I feel like I'm diving in, you tease!

Daniel said...

Dear John,
Through a strange occurance my wife broke all my smaller caserole dishes, so i did this in a 'big' caserole dish with 4 (2 pangasius and 2 something else white.. can't think of the name in English) and did a bed under and covered with veggies - as you did. Jalopino peppers are impossible to get in Austria apparently, so i substituted green pepper and put in some red-pickled cherry peppers for a bit of heat. Worked well! Served this with corn on the cob and even my kid gobbled it up.

The big-batch worked, but i totally wish i had cornchips and smaller serving dishes for this. but yeah, spooned it up on a plate and covered with veggies. was so colorful! What a great recipe!
cheers from Vienna,

Unknown said...

Chef John, I have a food wish, A Jalapeno Fillet - Fillet of beef stuffed with Jalapeno Cheese Filling,
Capped with jalapeno cream. I eat it at a restaurant here in South Africa, Its more spicy, and not crazy hot. Its very delicious and i would give my two front teeth to be able to whip up this dish for my guest. PLEASE!

Inka said...

That looks so incredibly delicious :) greetings from my polish Kitchen :)

Unknown said...

Instead of baking the fish in separate pans, can you just put the fish in the same sauté pan and place the whole pan in the oven?

Food Junkie said...

While I'll be avoiding the Red Snapper this dish will be showing up on my table soon. It has many of the flavours I love.

Chef John said...


Sandra from Montreal said...

What perfect timing for this recipe! My husband and I were just talking about eating (and drinking ;) a little lighter this week. We can't wait to try this...thanks again Chef John, for keeping us entertained and well-fed :) ps....looking forward to the braised lentil demo...

Anonymous said...

This was a really great dish, thank you! I'm so used to salmon on rice or flour/butter fish (not that I dislike these). I probably am showing my "foodie ignorance" here, but to me, this dish was so creative and interesting. Thanks much! As an aside, and a testament to your recipe, my wife had a few people from craigslist come over and one of them said "ooh, dinner smells amazing." My wife says I'm a great cook. I tell her no, Chef John is the great cook, I just do what he tells me to:)

Anonymous said...

Made this last night. Absolutely wonderful with fresh Gulf Red Snapper. I think this would be good with butterflied Chicken breast as an alternative, in a pinch. Did half Jalapeno and half pickled Jalapeno and doubled recipe. Served over white rice to use the excellent juices.

Alice said...

Gonna try this one tonight! But using a Sole fish (it was on sale at the grocery store and i'm in europe= dif fish choices). I also plan to throw in some corn and although i know not very mexican/spanish some eggplant and zucchini b/c we're trying to get more veggies in. :) hope it turns out yummy! I'm sure it will. Thanks for the recipe video!! :)

Lisette said...

I made it yesterday and it was delicious! I made it with another white fish(panga?) and served with ciabatta to dip the juices and a fresh salad, which was a good combo :)

The Netherlands

redforever said...

I made this last night and it was delicious. I never had snapper so used cod instead and it worked just fine. We loved it.

The sauce is good enough to eat by the spoonfuls. I think the fish and sauce would also make great tacos.

Thx for a great recipe.

Jessica said...

Chef John!!! Another amazing dish successfully demonstrated! I made this in a casserole dish and had zero leftovers :) Always a positive sign. Thank you so much for your regular inspiration!


Anonymous said...

I made this with walleye and it was wonderful. Baked fish is usually a no go with me but this really came out great!

Thanks Chef John

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but this tasted so gross to me, that after eating it, I ate a banana just to change the taste in my mouth.

jovoscrapper said...

Just found your website dude -- its awesome! Going to put this together for my lady this sunday night (while watching football of course) -- thanks for the great ideas and recipes

Traci said...

Delicious! We are having it again tonight; I double the recipe for the four of us and used a can of petite diced tomatoes with the juice. I put a layer of sliced cooked potatoes that I first boiled and drained over the fish... It gives you a carb and completes the dish! It's in the oven now and my mouth is watering! :) Thx for sharing this awesome easy enough recipe.

Anonymous said...

All of these are great recipes,thank you! but shouldn't "Spanish cuisine" refer only to dishes from Spain? there should be a separate space for Mexican cuisine. Also, (and I don't know if you already have) could you post some recipes from Yucatan?

S/V Blondie-Dog said...

Hi Chef,

I gotta tell ya... I made this dish along with some steamed white rice and it was down right appetizing. Even my finicky lady-friend liked it.

I did nevertheless add a smidgen of tomato paste to compliment my cherry tomatoes.

Yippers... it was good!

cookinmom said...

Can I use individual oven proof dish? Wonderin' if it would cook too fast in those? Got some fresh snapper we just caught that I think this would be awesome with.

jonamc said...

Hi Chef John, I would love to make the Veracruz recipe, but am looking for a substitute for olives. I despise olives, can't even stand the smell of them. It took me years just to break down and use olive oil for cooking. BTW, I have tried your Prime Rib Recipe a couple of times and it is awesome, up there with restaurant quality, for sure! Joan

Aidann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aidann said...

This was an amazing dish!

Unknown said...

Chef John,

My wife was not the biggest fish fan 4 years ago when she moved in with me but after years of experimenting with different fish (your herb crusted salmon recipe is one of her faves and oft requested dinners from me) she saw this recipe and requested it. I bought 2.5 pounds of fresh snapper yesterday ($25 lb btw...expensive fish!) so I doubled the recipe for the toppings (actually made 2 separate batches because I didn't want to effect the intended flavors). I went to 2 stores looking for the individual cooking pans and no one had them so I cooked it in a stone lasagna pan. I ended up with 6 fillets so 3 servings stacked on top of each other and cooked for 20 mins. My first time cooking snapper but it will not be my last! This was delicious and fairly easy to make. It will be in the rotation of Chef John meals!

ZS said...

This being holiday season I would like to wish you and yours happy holidays. Your blog has made a unique and real difference in my life. I do eat better - even if I have to cook myself. All your recipes I have tried have been rock-solid reliable, well-tested, expertly accomplished, innovative whenever possible and always elegant. Your approach to teaching is tolerant, flexible and accommodating where reasonable. The results have invariably been very satisfying. Thank you very much.

Chef John said...

Thank you!

md said...

Thanks for the recipe chef!
I made it today and loved it. Didn't have the individual baking dishes sooo...made it in my very trusty pyrex 9-inch pie dish. The end result still rocked!
Cheers from Querétaro, México :D

Unknown said...

Hi CJ!,

Can you please do a recipe or tutorial on how to cook a whole fish -bake, steam, or grill??

Thank youuuuuu!!!


Gina said...

Last night we tried this recipe. This recipe is easy to make and was absolutely delicious!

My bf and I usually follow recipes exactly then after our first tasting, adjust the ingredients/amounts to our taste.

This recipe was chosen just hours before dinner. I did not find the Castelvetrano green olives last night at the grocer so opted for another green olive Cerignola. I chose this olive because it came pitted, which is a personal preference because I believe olives taste better when still pitted.

The Red Snapper fish we purchased the day before at Whole Foods, not yet knowing our plan of recipe. I only asked the fish man to debone and filet the fish, so the fillets still had the skin on.

Chef John did not specifically mention on the video whether or not the Snapper should be skinned and the video only showed one side of the fish, the written recipe also does not mention this. I assumed because the fish is baked, that it probably needed to be skinned.

Perhaps, those who cook fish a lot know whether or not a fillet should be skinned for oven cooking. I am not one of those people. : /

Nevertheless, I did my best to remove the skins.

My bf was impatient and did not slice the olives to remove the pits. I managed to remove most of the pits but some went into the oven still pitted.

When the Veracruz came out of the oven, it looked incredible. The few olives that were still pitted, didn't hurt anything.

It was delicious. The only thing I would change, is a little less Jalepeno seed.

It was spicy hot, so I would lessen the heat just a bit. Other than that, this recipe ROCKS!

My boyfriend then stated he probably wouldn't eat the fish because he's a pain-in-the-you-know-what and is not a fish eater and usually finds any recipe with more than two ingredients off-putting. Oh brother!

He tried the fish recipe and couldn't believe how great it was. He said it best when he said it was "An explosion of flavor."

Veracruz is now in our recipe book and we plan on cooking this meal at least once a month!

Merlinda Guerra said...

Chef John - What are the names of the individual pan you used here? Or where can I find. Did you say Eddle Pan? I've been googling but can't find. Please let me know. Thanks!

Recipe looks amazing, Im having a dinner party and think I'm making this dish. Any suggestions for appetizers and sides with this?