Stop Wrinkling Your Nariz

I know what you are thinking, so just stop wrinkling that little nariz of yours just because you don't like fish (I can see you). You're not being punished. Pobrecita—you poor darling, you can't help it. Especially, if like me, your padres hailed from some ranchos in landlocked Zacatecas, where the chances of catching ocean fish are as remote as finding a live chicken crossing Rodeo Drive (the fowl kind, that is). Don't worry, mi'ja, you're in good hands. I would never feed you just any pescado apestoso—some icky and stinky old fish. It's time to say goodbye to goat stew and say hello to huachinango (huah-chee-NAHN-goh) [red snapper] with cilantro crema.
For those who have never had huachinango (can you repeat huachinango-huachinango-huachinango-huachinango without messing up?), it is a medium-firm fish, mild but not too mild. It can take a good drenching of chile-tomato salsa or anything spicy you throw its way without wimping out. And it certainly holds it own here with this silky cilantro crema. In fact, like its colors red and green, the sweet fishy flavor of the huachinango and the creamy but pungent green flavor of the cilantro contrast a little too brilliantly, especially when you blend in some buttery avocado into the sauce—not essential, but I just can't go on to relate. It is too luscious for words, really.

That viejo of mine thinks that green blanket of crema covers up a lot of unpleasant things: namely, the huachinango's grim down-turned mouth and its unblinking but somehow angry fish glare. It is curious to see this new-found squeamishness in a man who loves to suck on the pickled patas of a pig, but I am not fooled. His landlocked roots are showing.

I put the plate before him and hold it up to his nose.

"Good—now we can devour it guilt-free and enjoy ourselves without having to look at it. The fish doesn't know it's mad—it's dead. Just eat it, okay? Esta cocina está cerrada—this kitchen is closed!" Which means I'm done cooking and you better eat this or I will huachinango you.

It took some doing, but once my viejo tasted the ocean by giving this little fish with the big fat name a try, his taste buds are no longer living in a dry landlocked desert. Ya se pone todo emocionado [Now he gets all excited about] ostiones [oysters] y camarones [shrimp], jaibas [crabs] y langostas [lobster] and all kinds of fish, including our little red hauchinango—with nary a complaint about fish heads with beady eyes.

Can the same happen to you?

So stop wrinkling that little nariz of yours and start eating.

Huachinango con crema de cilantro

Red Snapper with Cilantro Crema

Feel free to use parsley instead if you don't care for the taste of cilantro. I used Mexican crema for this dish, but if you like a thinner consistency, you can add some milk to the crema, or substitute an equal amount of half-and-half. Either way, this dish is easy to prepare, and is almost mistake proof. Just tweak it to your liking. You don't even have to cook a whole fish if you don't want to, filets are fine, too. I like to use a little seasoning salt in my cilantro crema, so I am suggesting it here. Loosely adapted from Mexico the Beautiful Cookbook.


1 whole red snapper or 3 lbs. of snapper filet. You can substitute it with any fish with white flesh, as long as it is firm.

one large lime or lemon, cut in half

1 clove garlic, minced

About ¼ cup of chopped onion. Cut a few slices for the top of the fish

Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

2 cups of Mexican crema, or 2 cups of half-and-half (Fat-free half-and-half is fine.)

1 ½ cups fresh cilantro, or fresh flat-leafed parsley

1 avocado, preferably Hass (optional)

Recipe Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325°. Sprinkle salt and pepper the fish. Then rub it all over with the minced garlic. Next, take one half of the cut lime or lemon and squeeze juice over the fish. Take some a few sprigs of cilantro and the chopped onion and stuff them into the fish's cavity. Place a bay leaf underneath the fish and put some slices of onion on top. Place the fish in an oiled baking dish and cover with aluminum foil. Refrigerate it for about 30 minutes.

In the meantime, take the crema or the half-and-half and the cilantro and whirl them in a blender. You can add more cilantro or parsley, salt and pepper or even some lemon juice until it tastes the way you want it to. You can dilute it by adding a little milk if you like. Blending in some avocado makes it extra rich.

Bake the fish for about 30 minutes or so. The fish is done cooking when its flesh feels firm, but do not over-bake it.

In the last few minutes of baking time, pour the cilantro crema into a saucepan and simmer it until it is warm, but not hot.

When the fish is done, take it out of the oven and pour the cilantro crema over the fish. Serve right away.

Serves 2 people very well.

Note: Last month I mentioned that my little friend, Nakita, who lives just north of Tokyo had not contacted me yet. Three weeks after that devastating quake, I finally heard from her. She and her family are okay. What a relief!)


Anonymous said...

Confession: I have never bought a fish with eyes because I feel that it's watching, trying to give me a guilt complex for eating it. But, covered up with creamy cilantro sauce - I must try this recipe. I'll just make sure to cover the eyes with a slice of onion to ease my conscience. Thanks for the recipe!

Claudette Willard - artist,writer

adal gutierrez said...

Wow, the sauce looks amazing! Thanks for posting the recipe and glad to hear that your friend in Japan is ok. Saludos, Adal

Clementina said...

Hola, Claudette and Adal,
I hope you'll both like the recipe. I know it doesn't look like much, but it tastes delicioso.
Take care!

Tracy said...

Love the post but I can't eat fish that looks like fish. LOL.

Becky said...

this website is so awesome! Im so glad I stumbled upon this when I needed an empanada recipe, Im a white girl from Texas addicted to mexican food:) Im so happy I can learn how to make it myself finally. thanks for all the delicious help!

Becky said...

this website is so awesome! Im so glad I stumbled upon this when I needed an empanada recipe, Im a white girl from Texas addicted to mexican food:) Im so happy I can learn how to make it myself finally. thanks for all the delicious help!

Clementina said...

Hi Tracy,
Perhaps my peasant roots are showing, but I don't mind eating patas, cabeza, estomago, you name it. Ghoulish but true.

Clementina said...

Glad you liked it!

kobico said...

As someone of Japanese heritage, Clementina, I think I can match you on the weird things I'm willing to eat. By the way, I have been told that if you thoroughly dry the fish after washing, it makes it less "fishy". I haven't actually done a side-by-side comparison, but it could be worth a try.

The cilantro crema sounds wonderful and sounds like it might be good on poultry, too!

Clementina said...

Hola, Kobico!
That sounds like a great idea. I will definitely try that the next time. When I went to Japan I ate everything they put in front of me. I gave no thought as to what it was or how it might taste. Everything tasted great. Fish eyes? it is no biggie. Nice to hear from you as always. Take care!

Fish recipe said...

I have never prepare recipe fish with eye.. I feel different to eat so i completely take of the head.. I like your combination with sauce.. Well shared.. Keep it up!!!

DodgerFanInRdg said...

Hola, Dona Clementina!

I'm surprised nobody mentioned this. As for me, I cannot take up your challenge to repeat
"huachinango" for fear of repeating an ugly unmentionable exclamatory phrase in Spanish! Apart from that, your recipe looks awfully delicious and your blog....por favor y con todo respeto...please never abandon it!! Your stories that lead up to the recipes make yours my favorite blog! Pase buen dia, dona!

Clementina said...

Hola, DodgerFaninRdg!
Gracias, pero gracias for telling me that! It's comments like yours that keep me going, even if it's only once a month. And gracias for calling "Dona"--it's such an honor! Hope you'll like la receta!

D.M. SOLIS said...

When I miss my father, I think I'll visit here. Who are you? How have I not found your blog before now? My father learned to cook by watching his Tia Felicitas. She was one of the first woman chefs, so the family story goes, in Chicago after the Great Depression. When I read the creativity in your dishes, I remember hers and can almost see my father chopping vegetables, later serving me and waiting while I tasted... Blessings, peace, and all good things for you in cooking and in life.

Diane Solis

Clementina said...

Gracias, Diane!
I took a peek at your blog, and I think it is just the thing I need to read about getting the creative juices flowing again.
I'm so glad reading my little old blog brought back some good memories. That is what this blog is all about: the seemingly ordinary moments spent with familia that only become special when viewed throught the misty lense of nostalgia.
Welcome to my cocina!

Clementina said...

. . . Diane, you asked me who I am. I am an ordinary person with the modest dream of teaching a few muchachas how to cook frijoles de la olla.

Georgina said...

I had no problems saying, "hauchinango!" It rolled off my tongue like butta!! LOL I love the various indigenous languages from Mexico. My maternal family came from Sonora and my fraternal, from Durango.

Your recipe sounds amazing...isn't that what's called up in these parts, tilapia? I love it since I'm allergic to ocean fish, not shell, just fish...real bother!!

Looking forward to seeing more and reading lots more. BTW, I found you over at Rebecca's that woman!!


Clementina said...

Hola, Georgina!
Huachinango just rolls off my tongue, too. Have a great day.

Rosita Vargas said...

Me encanta el pescado en todas sus forma se ve exquisito ,te invito a mi cocina tradicional Chilena,me gustó tu cocina es muy rica la comida mexicana,soy una admiradora ,cariños ay abrazos.

Clementina said...

Hola, Rosa!
Ha pasado muchos anos desde que comi comida chilena, pero fue una experiencia muy agradable. Espero aprender de tu maravilloso blog! Mucho gusto en conocerte!

Dylana Suarez said...

This looks super yummy!


Clementina said...

Gracias, Dylana.
Your blog looks super yummy, too.

Accidental Huswife said...

My favorite fish!

Maria said...

Wow, I love this blog! Thanks for sharing such amazing information with us and the complete recipe! I really enjoyed it. I also blog about Mexican cuisine on I hope you'll take a chance to look at it! (oh, and español is welcome :) ). Best, Maria

S. Yissele Gallo said...

Hi! I like your Blog! Yummy! I following your blog for GFC & FB! I hope your visit! Have a great Week!


low carb recipes said...

I normally dont like the look of fish dishes [eyes ew] but this one does look pretty good!

Anonymous said...

Dear Clementina,
I regret that I have not taken the time to keep up with your blog more regularly, and am saddened to see that you have not posted to the blog since April.
I hope you are well, and look forward to your future blog postings.

Clementina said...

Hola, Anonymous
Thank you very much. I plan to start blogging again come January. Cuidate tu tambien.

chica said...

Clem, have you ever sliced open slits in the skin and rubbed coarse sea salt and char broiled? I had it prepared this way in Mojarra frita style? Come to think of it, I think they fried it? Scrumptous!

Buzz-meter said...

Very nice recipe...informative..

Anonymous said...

What a lovely site/blog.

So much of the Mexican Kitchen is about love and ingenuity. Your writing reflect them both.


Jimmy Shaw