Spirit of the Harvest: Mayan Grilled Fish with Recado Colorado

March 04, 2010

Spirit of the Harvest: Mayan Grilled Fish with Recado Colorado

Renowned food author Beverly Cox, winner of the James Beard cookbook award, a Julia Child award and a IACP cookbook award, and food editor for Native Peoples Magazine, contributes a monthly column and weekly recipes to TankaBar.com. The Spirit of the Harvest columns are published the second Wednesday of every month. Recipes from Beverly run on intervening Wednesdays.


4 servings


3/4 cup Recado Colorado (annatto seed seasoning) (See recipe below)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup bitter (Seville) orange juice, or 1/2 cup sweet orange juice combined with 1/2 cup lime juice
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 1-1/2- to 2-lb. whole red snappers, scaled and split lengthwise, or 2 pounds snapper or grouper fillets
4 to 6 bay leaves
1 cup Cebollas Encurtidas (pickled onions)
4 plum tomatoes, sliced
2 or 3 limes, cut into wedges


In a mixing bowl, dissolve Recado Colorado in vegetable oil, then stir in orange juice. Season with salt.

Place each fish in large glass or ceramic dish and rub the flesh generously with seasoning mixture. Scatter the bay leaves over the fish and marinate, refrigerated, for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Prepare a wood, charcoal, or gas grill. Remove the fish from the dish, reserving the marinade. If you have a grilling basket, place a banana leaf, rib side down, in the basket and arrange the fish on top, skin side up. Or, instead of a banana leaf, oil a piece of aluminum foil and place it, oiled side up, in the basket and arrange the fish on top.

Place basket on the grill and cook for 15 minutes. Then turn the basket over, baste the fish with the reserved marinade, and cook on other side for 15 minutes. The fish should flake easily with a fork.
(Or, place leaf or foil directly on grill rack and arrange the fish on it, skin side down. Grill, basting frequently with the reserved marinade, until the fish flakes easily, 20 to 30 minutes.)

Starting at the tail, gently lift out the backbone and pull off the fins. Discard the bones and arrange the fish on a platter. Garnish with cebollas, tomatoes, and lime wedges, and serve immediately.

Note: You also can prepare this dish in an oven. Preheat to 375 degrees F. Place fish in oiled baking pan and bake, basting frequently, until it flakes easily, 20 to 30 minutes.

This fish is spicy, but if you would like it even hotter, do as the Maya do and make a quick table salsa.

Combine 1/4 cup lime juice with a little chopped onion and cilantro, 1 or 2 slices habanero chile, and salt to taste.

The Recado Colorado


1 white onion, unpeeled, roasted
2 small heads garlic, unpeeled, roasted
3 tablespoons annatto (achiote) seeds
1 1-inch piece cinnamon stick (preferably Mexican), crushed
8 whole cloves
6 allspice berries
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano (preferably Mexican)


Peel roasted onion and garlic. Quarter the onion. Place onion and garlic cloves in food processor or blender, and puree. Using electric spice mill or mortar and pestle, grind annatto seeds, cinnamon, peppercorns, cloves, allspice, cumin, and oregano to a powder.

Add spice mixture to the onion and garlic, and blend to form a paste. Store the recado in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It should be good for several weeks.

Beverly Cox is the food editor of Native Peoples Magazine and a former food editor and director of food styling for Cook's Magazine. She holds a Grand Diplome from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and apprenticed with Gaston LeNotre.

Beverly has written 13 cookbooks, including Spirit of the Harvest, North American Indian Cooking, winner of the James Beard and IACP cookbook awards in 1992, and Spirit of the West, Cooking from Ranch House and Range, winner of a Julia Child award in 1997, and Spirit of the Earth, Native Cooking from Latin America, an IACP cookbook award finalist in 2002, all co-authored with food photographer Martin Jacobs. Their most recent book is Eating Cuban, 120 Authentic Recipes from the Streets of Havana to American Shores.

Beverly and her husband, Gordon Black, an architect turned rancher, live on the historic Eagle Rock Ranch in Northern Colorado where her great grandfather homesteaded in 1872. Beverly teaches hands-on cooking classes for small groups who want to combine cooking with the experience of visiting a working cattle ranch.

You can contact Beverly at BeverlyCox@TankaBar.com

For more information about Beverly's cookbooks featuring Native American recipes:

Body, Mind and Spirit: Native Cooking of the Americas

Spirit of the Harvest: North American Indian Cooking

Spirit of the Earth: Native Cooking from Latin America

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