When you try Pescado con Coco (Fish in Coconut Sauce) for the first time you can’t help but wonder just how bad it is for you, after all, something that tastes this decadent, that is so evocative of lazy days on white sand beaches, mid-day siestas, and exotic cocktails at sundown has to be terribly bad for one’s health.
Luckily, you would be wrong.
This mixture of natural fresh ingredients, aromatic herbs and creamy coconut is deceivingly rich, but made with all those things that doctors keep telling us are good for us. Much more so if, like we suggest, you use fresh fish and coconut milk.
The flagship of Samanense cooking (from Samaná), pescado con coco has a very sophisticated taste, despite the simplicity of its preparation and the humbleness of its components: the secret is in the freshness of its ingredients. Make this tropical combination of fresh tropical fish and, if you can, freshly extracted coconut milk.
Bring the gorgeous view of the Samana bay to your own dining room.
- 6 snappers or red grouper, ½ lb [0.45 kg] each (or tropical fish of your preference)
- 1 teaspoons of crushed garlic
- 1 teaspoon of powdered annatto (bija or achiote - optional)
- 1½ teaspoon of salt (more may be needed)
- 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil (corn, canola or peanut)
- 2 peppers cut into strips
- 1 onion cut into strips
- 4 cups of freshly extracted coconut milk (or canned)
- 2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro
- Clean the fish. Score diagonal cuts on the fish about 1.5 inches [4 cm] from each other.
- Mix the garlic, annatto and salt. Rub the fish with the mixture, making sure it penetrates into the cuts. The annatto does stain your hands, but it can be easily washed off.
- Heat oil in a large skillet (12" [30 cm]) over medium heat.
- Cook fish lightly on one side (it'll change color), rotate and cook other side equally. Lower heat.
- Add the pepper and onion, and cook until the onions become transparent.
- Add coconut milk. Simmer over medium heat until the liquid reduces to half.
- Rotate the fish regularly but being careful that it stays whole.
- When the liquid has reduced, taste the sauce and season with salt to taste. Sprinkle with the cilantro and remove from the heat.
- Serve hot with rice.