Caymanian Baked Fish

(from The Governor’s Lady: Entertainment & Recipes at Government House, The Cayman Islands, 1987-1992, by Joan Hall Scott)

One of several baked-fish variations common in the Caymans, reminiscent of Creole dishes. True to the cookbook’s title, a nice dish for entertaining with steps that can be done in advance. The list of ingredients may seem long, but the preparation is not intimidating.  Serve with rice.

Serves 8

3 pounds thick, firm fish fillets, like snapper, cod, wahoo or tuna

3 tablespoon vegetable oil

3 tablespoons bacon fat

1 large yellow onion, peeled, halved and sliced

1 bay leaf

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 red and 1 yellow pepper, sliced

1 stalk celery, sliced

1/2 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon Tabasco or Louisiana hot sauce

1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce

28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (preferably Italian, San Marzano)

5 ounces dry vermouth or fish stock

1 ½ tablespoons lime (or lemon) juice

1 teaspoon crab boil spice (such as Old Bay)

1/2 cup corn kernels (optional)

4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (or 1 teaspoon dried)

1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)

1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

4 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

Heat the oil and bacon fat in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic and bay leaf and sauté until the garlic begins to color. Add the celery and peppers and sauté until golden. Blend the tomato paste with the Worcestershire and hot sauces. Combine the vegetables and sauces with the crushed tomatoes. Add the vermouth, lime juice and crab boil spice. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Add the corn kernels, if using, and herbs. Simmer one minute more. (Sauce can be made in advance.)

Spread one-fourth of the sauce over the bottom of one or two shallow oven-proof casseroles or gratin dishes, large enough to hold the fish fillets in one layer. Cut the fish into portions and arrange in the dish. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Spread the remaining sauce over the fish, cover with foil. (Dish can be refrigerated at this point, until ready to bake. Bring to room temperature before baking.)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place covered dish in upper part of the oven and bake about 40 minutes. Timing depends on the thickness of the fillets; when finished, the fish flakes easily and is opaque in the center.

One Comment Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s