Thursday, April 17, 2008

Dried Fish

In the market in Patzcuaro there was a whole section of the market with tubs and tubs of dried fish. From tadpole size to the size of the palm of your hand. I'd seen dried fish in markets before but never so many varieties and sizes. So of course I went looking for some Mexican recipes that used the dried fish. The one recipe that I found in my Mexican cookbooks was a Home-style Bacalao recipe in Frida's Fiestas, Recipes and Reminiscences of Life with Frida Kahlo.

But I found out a lot more about dried fish. Traditionally fish were dried and sometimes salted to preserve them since there was no refrigeration. Portugual, Italy and Northern Spain developed recipes for dried fish and salted dried fish. These recipes were included in the special meals on Christmas Eve and on Good Friday during Holy Week. The Italians seem to have made the best use of dried fish using them in numerous kinds of recipes.

I'm not sure whether the recipes for dried fish came to Mexico along with the Spaniards or if it came later in the immigration of Italians to Mexico in the late 1800's and early 1900's. It just seems strange to me that I can't find any recipes for the tiny little fish. In the market in Uruapan I have been offered and I ate some of those little fish fried....maybe with a light batter. They were delicious. I could see having them as a appetizer.

Since there were tubs and tubs of dried fish in the markets, there has to be more Mexican recipes. Do any of my readers have Mexican recipes for the dried fish besides the Bacalao?


jennifer rose said...

At is a recipe for nopales in chile pasilla with dried charales.

I've been served it a number of times and prepared by good cooks, but it's still a dish that sort of leaves you wanting to wash your mouth out with soap.

Aporreadillo de charales is another opportunity to put the dried charales to use:

Fry 2 cups dried charales in 2 T. oil. Stir in 6 whole eggs, 1 large chopped tomato, 1/2 finely chopped medium onion, 1 clove chopped garlic, and 1 chopped serrano pepper. Cook until set, stirring occasionally. Add 5 sprigs chopped cilantro and 1 cup of hot chicken broth. Simmer for about 15 minutes, uncovered, or until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with fresh tortillas and red salsa.

The better use, as far as I'm concerned, is to buy the charales already fried at Mega, reheating them in the microwave, to serve as a snack or as taco filling.

jennifer rose said...

Salsa del Lago

1 c. charales
2 c. tomatillos de milpa (tinier than regular tomatillos, these actually look more like ones which didn’t make the grade)
6 chiles Serrano

Chop it in the food processor just short of pureeing it, leaving in some lumps. Add salt to taste, and if you want it slightly inauthentic, add some olive oil.

Billie said...

Okay, now we're cooking.
But 6 serranos....WOW this will be HOT. Then do you eat it with tostados or on something?

jennifer rose said...

You could always reduce the number of chiles serrano. Or add more cilantro. Serve with tostados or cheese. It definitely has a strong, fishy flavor -- almost like anchovies on a pizza. A little goes a long way.

The dried fish strike me as a way of preserving protein inexpensively for poor folks. One time I asked the vendors in Patzcuaro what could be done with those dried fish, and one of the old ladies suggested a soup in addition to the recipes shown above.

Anonymous said...

Some mujeres here in the Hood use the little inch long dried silver fish in chili seco - a tasty addition.