Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sauce Vera Cruz

A view of the Vera Cruz coast.

This is a preparation I will never forget. About 4 years ago I made a huge batch of it, and unwittingly cut a case of Hungarian peppers bare handed. Sure I thought about it. I cut a sliver of pepper and tasted it before I got started. I tasted nothing frightening, so I continued on for the next 20 minutes and into the pot they went. Off to wash my hands, and something felt a little different. The water felt strikingly hot in my finger pits, the base of my fingers. Nothing to get overly worked up about....yet. A good hour later I was in excruciating pain. With slightly swollen finger, and glowing red skin between my fingers I knew things were going down hill. Anything cold was relief, but didn’t last long. I did some research, and tried everything from buttermilk to bleach. I just had to wait it out, about 36 hours or so. A mistake I will not make again, and a sauce I sill never forget.

Vera Cruz rests on the eastern shores of Mexico. It was one of the last Spanish foothold before being pushed out of Mexico. This influence left a definite touch on the regional cuisine. For example the use of green olives and capers in many variations of the Vera Cruz sauce recipe. I have taken the liberty to break the sauce away from what could be called a Vera Cruz preparation, in which a flat fish is covered with the sauce and baked, equally absorbing flavor and enhancing the sauce. I have looked at up to 50 or so different Vera Cruz sauce recipe and the basic recipe is the same, onions, peppers, and tomatoes. Things like green olives, capers, lemon, herbs, or spicy chilies are used at the preparers discretion. Here is the recipe I am using at the restaurant right now.

2 onions
4 red peppers
6 Hungarian peppers
2 tbsp. garlic
2 quarts tomato
2 cups sliced green olives
2 tbsp. olive brine
6 shakes tabasco
Salt and white pepper

All the vegetables are large dice and Sauteed in oil. Tomatoes can be canned diced, or fresh since we all seem to have a ton of tomatoes right now, but are added after the other vegetables have started to cook down. Once the tomatoes are added simmer for about 20 minutes, adjust seasoning, and leave the sauce with a little extra liquid, specifically if you plan to re-heat it as we do in the restaurant. I try to balance the olive brininess, pepper heat, and tomato richnsss.

In the traditional way we serve this sauce with fish, Ian’s spice crust Mahi-Mahi to be exact, and dirty rice.

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