If you read our interview with Chichen Itza chef-owner Gilberto Cetina, you will have been reminded that the chef, besides running one of L.A.'s favorite restaurants and writing a soon-to-be-published cookbook on Yucatecan cuisine, makes a mean bottle of habanero sauce. Cetina also makes anchiote paste, which features prominently in his recipe for Tikin-Xic, or roasted fish in achiote sauce. The name of the dish, Cetina told us, is Mayan for "dry wing." This is because the recipe was originally made with shark fin, sharks having long been prevalent along the Yucatán peninsula.
"In the past, not anymore," said Cetina of the use of shark fin in the dish. "We use red snapper or sole or grouper, my favorite." Cetina grills the fish in the back of his tiny kitchen, above a mesquite fire, and serves it with a glorious bright sauce made with more achiote and Seville oranges, the traditional citrus used in the making of cochinita pibil, the signature dish of both Chichen Itza and, probably, the Yucatán. Turn the page for Cetina's Tikin-Xic recipe.
Tikin-Xic, or fish in achiote sauce
From: Gilberto Cetina of Chichen Itza.
For the fish:
6 ounces achiote paste
2 cups lemon juice
6 tablespooons kosher salt
12 3-4-ounce fillets of snapper, sea bass, grouper, petrale sole or other white fish
1. Place the achiote paste, lemon juice and salt in a blender and blend until well combined. Pour over the fish fillets and allow to marinate for 2 hours. Before grilling the fish, allow to come to room temperature while you make the sauce.
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons AP flour
1 cup Seville orange juice, or 3/4 cup lemon juice plus 1/4 cup orange juice
2 ounces achiote paste
2 cups of water
1 teaspooon kosher salt
1. In a sauce pan, melt the butter and add the flour. Stir until combined. Add the remainder of the sauce ingredients and cook for 5-6 minutes over medium heat. If the sauce gets too thick, add a little water. Keep the sauce warm while you grill the fish.
2. Remove the fish from the mariade and grill the fillets, a few at a time, over a hot grill or in a medium saute pan over high heat. Grill or pan fry the fish for about 2-3 minutes per side.
3. Serve the fish, two fillets per serving, with steamed long grain white rice, a generous portion of the achiote sauce, a tablespoon of pico de gallo and fried tortilla strips (both optional) and warm tortillas.