In our first edition of “Restaurant Recipes” Chef Anthony Chalas of La Sirena Restaurant & Bar invited us into his kitchen to see how easy it is to cook the invasive, but delicious lionfish.
Before we started we wanted to know what led Anthony to the kitchen. He told us that he was basically born there. His father is a Greek chef and still Anthony’s favorite cook, while his mother was an expert caterer for more than two decades. Anthony worked his way up through the ranks of many restaurants in New Jersey. He even travelled to Greece, where he spent time working in kitchens and honing his craft.
Anthony’s top tip for wanna-be chefs is to always start with a really hot pan. A big mistake people make is putting food into a pan that has not been properly preheated. His other tip was to not be afraid to finish dishes in the oven.
Anthony opened La Sirena Restaurant & Bar in Puerto Morelos just over one year ago. Featuring Mediterranean cuisine in the restaurant and live music in the bar, it has been a great addition to our little fishing village. He invited us into his kitchen to see how he makes his signature dish “Blackened Lionfish”, a dish that he and head chef Tomas Juarez Rodriguez co-created for last year’s Puerto Morelos Food and Wine Festival. Now he shares his secret with you.
Cooking lionfish may seem like a dangerous task, but it is not. Here in Puerto Morelos, the people at the fish co-operative are happy to fillet the fish for you, removing the poisonous spines that could cause you problems if not handled properly. If you wish to do it yourself, here is a video that shows you how.
Blackened Lionfish (Pez Leon) With a Dilled Sour Cream(recipe below)– Serves 4
For best results make dill sauce ahead of time
4 lionfish filets
2 Tbsp olive oil
Mix equal parts paprika, cayenne, oregano, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, white and black pepper
Dilled Sour Cream
1 cup sour cream
1/2 bunch of dill finely chopped
1 clove fresh finely chopped garlic
dash of Worcestershire sauce
squeeze of lime
salt and pepper to taste
Begin by making the dilled sour cream. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours to let the flavours blend.
Cook the lionfish begin by heating 2 Tbsp olive oil in an oven-safe sauté pan until very hot.
Gently coat both sides of lionfish filet with Blackening Seasoning.
Place fillets in a hot pan with the rounded side of the filet face down. Allow to cook 2-3 minutes until blackening is complete. Flip fillets in pan, cook another 2-3 minutes to blacken the other side. Move pan into a preheated 350 F or 170 C degree oven. Allow to bake for 5 to 7 minutes until cooked through. Move to plate and top with a dollop of dilled sour cream. Serve with spinach or your favorite fresh vegetable. Also goes great with rice. ENJOY!
Photos by: Robert Birce
Mexico has so many amazing cuisines and an equal number of restaurants to go along with them. We are starting a new feature which will take you inside the kitchens of some of our favourite dinning establishments. Not only will you get a look at how those wonderful dishes are being made, but the chefs have also agreed to share their secret recipes with you! So keep checking back here. We will have our first “Restaurant Recipes” feature next week.
Wonderful, fresh fruits and vegetables are one of the many great things about living here in Mexico. We now eat so many more of them because they taste so good. After a lifetime of living in Calgary, where the produce was hard and tasteless, especially in the winter, I don’t think we really knew what “fresh” tasted like. Now it is such a pleasure to have great greens available just down the street at Chulim or from the passing vendors. When mango season starts you can hear the call of “Mango, Mango, Mango” from the loud speakers of the passing produce trucks as they come door to door. And since we have moved here, my love of avocados has increased. What better way to enjoy fresh mango than with avocado. This recipe takes full advantage of our best local produce. And you can spice it up or down to meet your taste.
Lovely Red Onion
Since moving here I had to learn essential skills like how to slice an mango.…
and an avocado. Including the knife twisting trick to get the pit out.
My favourite new gadgets is a pairs of herb scissors that I use for chopping up cilantro.
No Mexican recipe would be complete without the ubiquitous squeeze of lime.
Finish it all off with a little sea salt and some habanero pepper to taste and you have a wonderful side dish for chicken or fish. It also makes a great appetizer with tortilla chips.
Peppermint & Salted Caramel Ice Cream
Christmas in Mexico is so very different from Christmas up north. Since moving here we have started some of our own, new traditions. Now instead of making heavy fruit cake to celebrate the season, we make ice cream. It goes down easier on those hot winter days. There are two kinds I make for Christmas, the tradition Peppermint Ice Cream (which we have never seen in Mexico) and our newest favourite, Salted Caramel Ice Cream. Rob found this recipe on the internet and I have made it several times and it is a winner! It comes from Constantly Cooking.
Making the caramel from scratch.
Adding the caramel to the base.
This ice cream maker was a Christmas gift from my Dad to my Mom when I was a kid. It still works great to this day.
The only difference with mine over the original recipe is that I use Mexican Vanilla and Vanilla Sea Salt, both which are available at Alma Libre Books and Gifts in Puerto Morelos. Sprinkling a little extra vanilla infused sea salt on the top of the ice cream before serving really adds a nice kick!
Torta Árabe con Queso
Tacos Árabe (Arabian Tacos) are very similar to the Tacos al Pastor that are served in the Yucatan. The main difference, the location. Tacos Árabe are a Puebla dish. It is one of the most popular dishes in the area, although not authentically Mexican. Tacos Árabe is a Middle Eastern dish that was introduced in the 1930’s with an interesting history. Easily served on a tortilla or torta, the meal was quickly adopted by the Mexicans.
Hard to make on your own, here is a recipe for them.
Real Tacos Árabe are made by layering pork loin and onions on a spit. This task can take over an hour to complete. Then the pork is slow roasted for many hours to perfection in front of red, hot coals.
In Puebla we enjoyed our tacos with a cold beer at a small chain called Tacos Tony.
Tacos are under $20 mxn ($1.50 usd) each or you can by meat by the kilogram. Tony’s was good, but the best way to enjoy Tacos Árabe is at an open air fair or market where people are lined up to get them and you just know they are piping hot.
You need a super sharp knife to chop the meat up.
This man really liked his knife!
When we are traveling through Mexico, we love to explore the markets. We often find wonderful foods, spices and cooking utensils that we are unfamiliar with. Recently in Cholula we saw these bright, coloured beans… but we have no idea what they are called or what they are used for. If you know, leave us a comment below so that we can solve this Mexican mystery.
Update: Thank you Guillermo Lomelin for writing and letting us know that these beans are called “guasanas” a typical Mexican snack that is often steamed or roasted. Mystery solved!
This is the recipe my friends ask me for again and again. It’s always a hit and fortunately, it’s also one of the easiest recipes I know. It was Miguel Robles, owner of Mi Rueda Restaurant in Puerto Vallarta, who taught me this recipe many years ago and after we had all shared a few too many tequilas. The proportions of this recipe are inexact, this may have been due to the too many tequila or that fact that is a tradition recipe that is just known by most Mexicans.
-beefy tomatoes (I use Roma or Cherry)
-sweet white onions
-cilantro (optional for you cilantro haters)
-fresh lime juice
Cut the top and bottom off tomatoes. Squeeze out the seeds and juice. Chop into small squares. Chop an equal amount of white onion to the same size. Add chopped cilantro. I like lots of cilantro, but I have also learned over the years that there are people who HATE, not just dislike, but hate this herb. I personally think it is a crime to leave the cilantro out. Cilantro is add to taste. Then add the juice of 1 to 2 fresh squeezed limes depending on the size of your batch. And the secret ingredient in this salsa, sea salt. Regular salt does not work. Salt to taste. Mix it all in a glass bowl (not metal) cover and let sit for a few hours or overnight so the flavours can meld together. Before serving, drain off excess liquid.
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