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Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Mojarra Rellena de Camaron
Salvadoran whole fried tilapia with shrimp!
The translation of this Salvadoran fish entree is not literal. Rellena refers to stuffed. The shrimp are usually spooned over the tilapia and not stuffed in the cavity of the whole fish. Tilapia is usually served as the fish mojarra. Mojarra refers to a fish that is used for bait like large pinfish. Mojarra frita refers to a whole fried tilapia. Many coastal Mexican recipes refer to this entree as mojarra con mojo de ajo camarones. San Salvadorans call this entree mojarra rellena de camaron and sometimes mojarra rellena de camarones. The diction depends on tradition and local dialects. This is somewhat confusing to some, but it goes to show how food names are worth researching!
There are many great Salvadoran restaurants in the Las Vegas valley. I have posted a few Las Vegas Salvadoran restaurant reviews in the past. Salvadoran food is usually mild tasting and not overly spicy hot. Just because Salvadoran food is mild does not mean that it is bland! The sauce for the shrimp is a quickly made sofrito of tomato, garlic, cilantro, onion, mild peppers and mild chile powders. Coriander, cumin and a generous couple of pinches of ground anatto give this sauce a very pleasant flavor.
The mojarra frita cooking technique is a great way to cook tilapia. The whole tilapia is gutted and scaled first. Deep gashes are cut into the flesh, so the frying time is drastically reduced. The oil must be at least 1 1/2 inches deep in a large cast iron skillet or saute pan. The oil must be about 360 degrees, so the skin and highlights of the fish become crisp. The fish is fried one side at a time and the fish needs to be flipped a few times to prevent excess browning.
Restaurants usually cook mojarra frita in a deep fat fryer, but many use the deep pan frying method. The result is a whole fish with caramelized crispy highlights and the meat underneath the surface is very moist and full of flavor. Pan frying a whole fish with this method locks the flavor and moisture in!
Mojarra Frita Recipe:
Gut and scale a medium to large size whole tilapia.
Cut slices through the skin and meat to the bone on both sides of the fish. Do not cut through the bones! The gashes should be spaced about 1 inch apart. The line of the gill behind the head should be used as a guide for the first slice gash.
Dredge the gashed whole tilapia in flour that is seasoned with sea salt and black pepper.
Heat about 1" to 1 1/2" of vegetable frying oil in a deep sided cast iron skillet or sauteuse pan to 360 degrees. (The pan must be wider than the length of the fish.)
Carefully pick the fish up by the tail and place it in the hot frying oil.
Pan fry the tilapia.
Turn the tilapia once every two minutes or so. Use tongs to turn the fish in the pan, so splashing is minimized!
Keep pan frying and turning the fish, till the flesh gets some light brown highlights and till the fish becomes fully cooked.
Place the whole fried tilapia on a dry towel to drain off any excess grease.
Keep the fish warm on a stove top.
Mojarra Rellena de Camaron Recipe:
The shrimp and sauce should not be made ahead of time for this entree. The sauce can be made while the fish is frying or the fish can be kept warm while the sauce is made. This sauce only takes about 4 minutes to make!
Heat a saute pan over medium high heat.
Add a small splash of vegetable oil.
Add 2 tablespoons of finely chopped onion.
Add 2 tablespoons of finely chopped green bell pepper.
Saute for 30 seconds, till the onions begin to turn clear on the edges.
Add 3 cloves of minced garlic.
Add 1 thin sliced green onion..
Add 12 to 14 peeled and deveined medium size shrimp. (Remove the tails for this recipe.)
Saute till the shrimp become halfway cooked.
Add 1 small handful of finely chopped tomato.
Saute till the tomato starts to become soft.
Add 1 splash of dry white wine.
Add 1 cup of light chicken stock.
Add 1 pinch of crushed red pepper.
Add 2 pinches of ground chile pasilla.
Add 1 pinch of cumin.
Add 2 pinches of coriander.
Add 3 pinches of ground anatto.
Add 2 pinches of paprika.
Add 6 chopped cilantro leaves.
Stir and rapidly reduce the sauce, till a medium thin sauce forms.
Add 1 small squeeze of lime juice.
Remove the sauce and shrimp from the heat.
Place the mojarra frita on a plate.
Generously spoon the shrimp and the sauce over the fried tilapia.
Garnish with cilantro sprigs or parsley sprigs.
Serve with white rice that is cooked with chicken broth on the side.
Delicious! The mild mojo di ajo camarones sauce is perfect for smothering the mojarra frita! The pasilla chile adds a mild fruity chile flavor to the sauce. The anatto and coriander add color and mild gentle flavors. The tomato gives the sauce a nice rich body. The lime is always added last, so the crisp clean lime flavor remains sharp. The tilapia is crisp on the outside while moist and tender in the middle. The shrimp are plump and tender, because they are not overcooked. This is a very nice healthy Salvadoran entree that is not too difficult to make! Yum! ... Shawna