September 4, 2006
The rustic romance of the Southern Yucatan awakens some kind of primal instincts that are embedded in our fiber. Under the heat of the noonday sun, the hormone production increases 10-fold and activities like paddling through the mangroves and cenotes in a wooden canoe are sure to stimulate the appetite.
With my stomach growling, I took off down the beach road on the only working bicycle I could find – a 20″ bmx. My knees reaching the height of my shoulders with each pedal stroke, I spied 2 boats coming in through the cut and I pedalled faster to reach their fishing camp. They made it first and by the time I arrived, I found a fire smouldering a table full of whole roasted fish. One fisherman was feeding bits of the succulent flesh to a topless woman stretched out in a hammock. I averted my eyes in embarrasment, but couldn’t help sneaking another peak at the not so vaguely sexual act. I was able to buy a small yellowtail before they sent me away laughing as I high-pedalled up the sandy road.
Salt Crusted, Whole Roasted Yellow Tail
with Papaya Habanero Salsa Fresca
1 cup diced papaya
1 cup diced plum tomatoes
1/2 cup diced red onion
2 habaneros seeded and minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
1 Tbs olive oil
Pinch of salt
Combine all ingredients, cover and store in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours. I prefer this salsa to be really fresh. It begins to wilt slightly after a few hours.
A 2 to 3lb whole yellowtail, cleaned and degilled
1/2 cup course sea salt
1 egg, beaten
2 Tbs olive oil
3 limes sliced
3 cloves garlic
1 small bunch of cilantro, whole
Preheat the oven to 400. Stuff the cavity of the fish with lime, cilantro and garlic. Brush both sides of the fish with the beaten egg and coat with the course sea salt. Bake for 20 – 35 minutes depending on the size of your fish until cooked through. I usually estimate 10-12 minutes per pound. Cut a slit in center of one side of the fish to check doneness. When it’s ready, cut 2 or 3 additional slits in the side of the fish, drizzle with olive oil and squeeze lime. Serve on a platter with additional lime.
Now, the fun part David. I know you’re ambidextrous, so she’ll be squirming in her rough hewn wooden chair in short order. Pick up a fresh, warm tortilla in your left hand and with your right, pull back the salt crusted skin to reveal the succulent, juicy flesh. Pull a piece off the fish and put it in the tortilla. Spoon just a bit of the salsa on the fish and wrap the tortilla into a delicious little present. Hold it up to her mouth for a bite and then take a bite yourself. Serve this with a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc or a cold beer poured into a tall glass.
For further effect you could try a few words of Mayan like “Bin in tz’uutz’ a chi, tut yam x cohl” or if that puts you out too much, just raise your brows a few times and make noises that say delicious.