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Click here to read the recipe for Huachinango Veracruzana.


Food and Family

Family Traditions

When Rosa Fraga was growing up her mother made rice and beans almost every night. She remembers that holidays and overnight guests meant moments of indulgence, like fried ham and eggs, or roast beef. But her most favorite food was red snapper, or huachinango.

Rosa's parents, Juan and Maria Fraga, are originally from Mexico, but both of their families moved to Texas in the 1940s. In the early years of their marriage Juan and Maria traveled from Texas to Michigan as migrant workers. They picked cherries and sugar beets, huge crops in Michigan, as well as blueberries and cucumber pickles. In 1952, they settled in Saginaw, Michigan to raise their family. Juan got a job as a troquero, coordinating labor between workers and farm owners, and eventually found steadier work at a foundry.

For years, any kind of seafood was a great treat in the Fraga household. And since there were ten children to feed, it was also an extravagance. On the rare occasions Maria prepared red snapper, she did so in the true Mexican style: a whole fish immersed in a garlic and crumb breading, then deep-fried and served on a platter with an olive in its mouth. A veracruzana sauce of tomatoes, cilantro, cumin, and jalapeno was served on the side.

Deep-frying fish, however, is not exactly healthy. So after some experimentation, Rosa and I figured out a way to prepare the red snapper so that it was delicious, crispy and FoodFit. Rosa had no qualms about altering a much-loved recipe. Anyway, she said, she's used to Mexican food being confused with Tex-Mex food. Flour tortillas, for instance, were until recently unheard of in Mexico, where corn tortillas are the standard.

I confess that I do prefer flour tortillas with this dish, so that the huachinango veracruzana becomes a kind of fish taco. The panko (Japanese bread crumbs), of course, are hardly Mexican. But as Rosa pointed out, everything's going global these days.

Chilled sliced mango makes an excellent dessert.

Huachinango Veracruzana

Serves: 4
Preparation time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes


4 tomatoes
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and thinly sliced (optional)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro or more
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper

2 red snapper fillets, totaling 1 1/2 to 2 lbs.
3 teaspoons olive oil plus 1 1/2 tablespoons additional olive oil
8 garlic cloves, very finely minced
2 cups panko, Japanese breadcrumbs
4 flour tortillas

Cooking Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350

  1. Make Veracruzana sauce. Thinly slice the tomatoes, then slice them again crosswise. Gently toss them with the sliced onion, jalapeno, cilantro, cumin, lime juice, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Drizzle one and a half teaspoons olive oil on each fillet, coating them all over. Season the fillets with salt and pepper. Dredge them first in the minced garlic then the panko, making sure that the fillets are well coated in both.
  3. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the fillets and cook for about 3 minutes on each side, until the panko turns brown. Transfer the fish to a baking dish and cook it in the oven for about two minutes. Thick fillets will take a few more minutes.
  4. Remove the fish from oven. Place the flour tortillas on a baking sheet and heat for about three minutes, or until warmed through.
  5. Cut the snapper into approximately one-inch pieces, and arrange them on the tortillas. Spoon the sauce over the fish and serve.

Nutrition Facts (per serving):

Calories: 680
Fat: 16 grams
Saturated Fat: 3 grams
Sodium: 2, 535 milligrams
Total Carbohydrates: 81 grams
Dietary Fiber: 7 grams
Protein: 50 grams
% calories from fat: 22%
% calories from saturated fat: 4%

By Bich Minh Nguyen

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