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Food

Gabriela Cámara’s Pescado a la Talla Recipe

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 8, 2020 • 4 min read

Chef Gabriela Cámara is the celebrated chef of Mexico City’s Contramar, San Francisco’s Cala, and Onda in Los Angeles, and is author of the cookbook My Mexico City Kitchen. Pescado a la Talla is a stunning two-tone fish that was the very first thing Gabriela put on the menu at Contramar when she opened the restaurant in 1998. It’s inspired by a traditional grilled fish from the Mexican state of Guerrero, where fish is cooked over an open flame and served with tortillas and a variety of salsas, beans, and pickled vegetables to create a DIY taco situation.

The red and green sauces represent the two sides of her heritage: a fiery red salsa, which is a nod to her Mexican roots, and a fresh parsley-based salsa that references her Italian influences.

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3 Tips for Making Gabriela Cámara’s Pescado a la Talla

When shopping for Gabriela Cámara’s Pescado a la Talla, keep the following in mind:

  1. Ask your fishmonger for the freshest snapper-like catch of the day, and request that they butterfly it for you. When shopping for whole fish, use your senses: Fresh fish shouldn’t have a noticeably “fishy” or “off” smell, the meat should feel firm to the touch, and the eyes should be clear, not cloudy.
  2. Beans vary wildly in quality: To check if dried beans are relatively fresh (as opposed to ones that have been sitting for too long), drop them into cold water (they should sink). Discard any that float to the top. Canned beans work in a pinch, but they usually have a subpar texture and flavor compared with dried beans.
  3. Gabriela serves her Pescado with fresh corn tortillas and refried beans topped with Ocosingo cheese. Ocosingo cheese is a specialty product from the highlands of Chiapas, with a natural acidity that pairs well with the earthiness of the beans, but it can be difficult to find outside of Mexico; if you’re having trouble tracking it down, you can easily substitute cotija cheese or queso fresco.

Gabriela Cámara’s Pescado a la Talla Recipe

Serves
4 to 6 people
Prep Time
12 hr
Total Time
13 hr
Cook Time
1 hr

Ingredients

For the frijoles aguados:

  • 240 grams dried black beans, soaked overnight, and rinsed
  • 10 grams garlic cloves
  • 1 sprig epazote or 2 avocado leaves
  • Salt to taste

For the adobo rojo de chiles sauce:

  • 30 grams chile cascabel, destemmed and seeded
  • 12 grams chile ancho, destemmed and seeded
  • 9 grams chile guajillo, destemmed and seeded
  • 9 grams chile pasilla, destemmed and seeded
  • 1 gram chile de árbol, destemmed and seeded
  • 450 grams roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 70 grams white onion, roughly chopped
  • 12 grams garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 12 grams freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 3 grams achiote paste
  • 36 grams grapeseed oil
  • Pinch of cumin
  • Pinch of oregano
  • 18 grams sea salt, plus more for seasoning

For the green sauce:

  • 10 grams garlic cloves
  • 40 grams parsley leaves
  • 120 milliliters safflower oil or grapeseed oil
  • Pinch of cumin
  • Sea salt to taste

For the fish:

  • 1 whole 1–2 kilogram whitefish (whatever is available to you locally), butterflied and deboned
  • Sea salt
  • 240 milliliters Green Sauce
  • 240 milliliters Adobo Rojo de Chiles
  • 240 grams Frijoles Aguados, strained
  • 240 milliliters reserved bean cooking liquid
  • 20 grams vegetable oil or lard
  • 150 grams white onion, finely diced
  • Salsa Verde Cruda, for serving
  • Salsa Tatemada, for serving
  • Warm corn tortillas, for serving
  • 80 grams Ocosingo cheese, queso fresco, or cotija cheese, for serving
  • Lime wedges, for serving
  1. Prepare the frijoles aguados. 1 day before cooking, soak the dried beans overnight in cold water (this will ensure that the beans cook faster and more evenly). The next day, rinse the beans thoroughly to remove any debris. Place the beans in a medium pot and cover with water until the beans are completely submerged and there’s an extra 10 centimeters of water above them. Add the garlic and epazote (or avocado leaves). Remove any beans that float to the surface.
  2. Cook the frijoles aguados. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to low to maintain a simmer. Cover the pot. After about 30 minutes, remove the lid, stir the beans, and add more water if needed to maintain 10 centimeters of water covering the beans. Replace the lid and simmer for another 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, taste a bean for doneness—it will likely still be firm, but check every 10 minutes from this point, stirring gently between each test and adding more water as needed. Cook the beans until soft but still whole with skin intact. Season with salt and set aside.
  3. Make the adobo rojo de chiles sauce. If possible, turn on the exhaust fan above your stove or open a window before toasting your chiles. Heat a large nonstick pan or clay comal over medium-high heat. Cook the chiles in the dry pan or on the dry comal, flipping once, until lightly toasted and aromatic, about 1–2 minutes. Put the toasted chiles in a blender. Add the tomatoes, onion, and garlic. Place the achiote paste in a small bowl. Slice the orange in half and squeeze one half into the achiote paste. Stir to combine. Add the mixture to the blender, along with the juice from the other half of the orange. Add the grapeseed oil, cumin, and oregano. Blend on high until the sauce is thick but smooth, about 1 minute. Add salt to taste.
  4. Make the green sauce. Combine all ingredients in a blender (or a tall vessel if you’re using an immersion blender). Blend until all ingredients are smooth and combined, about 2–3 minutes. Parsley can be fibrous and tricky to blend; just keep pulsing until emulsified.
  5. Prepare the fish. Preheat the oven to 200°C (375°F). Liberally grease a baking sheet with olive oil to avoid sticking. Place the butterflied fish on the baking sheet skin side down. Salt the fish. Use a serving spoon to coat one side of the fish with the Adobo Rojo de Chiles sauce, spreading an even layer across the entire surface of the fish. Use a fresh serving spoon to coat the other side of the fish with the green sauce.
  6. Roast the fish. Once both sides are amply coated with sauce, roast the fish in the oven until the flesh is white and slightly visible from beneath the sauce, about 15–20 minutes. Check fish after 15 minutes to avoid overcooking.
  7. Assemble and serve. To assemble, remove the fish from the oven and transfer it to a platter (or leave it on the baking sheet). Serve with warm tortillas, a bowl of frijoles refritos topped with Ocosingo, queso fresco, or cotija cheese, salsa verde cruda, salsa tatemada, and fresh lime.

Become a better chef with the MasterClass Annual Membership. Gain access to exclusive video lessons taught by culinary masters, including Gabriela Cámara, Chef Thomas Keller, Massimo Bottura, Dominique Ansel, Gordon Ramsay, Alice Waters, and more.

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