November 2011

Chef’s Table Rick Bayless
RESTAURANT: RED O

ACHIOTE FISH BAKED IN BANANA LEAVES

The interminable chef-as-host dilemma? Palate fatigue. “I’m tired of Mexican food by the end of the week, but it’s what people expect me to make,” says Bayless, who sticks mainly to backyard veggies at home but always keeps achiote paste, a Mexican spice blend, on hand.

13 ½-ounce package achiote paste, such as El Yucateco
1 ⅓ cup fresh lime juice
6 to 8 medium fingerling or small red-skin potatoes, sliced ⅛ inch thick
Vegetable oil, as needed
Salt to taste
4 12-inch squares of banana leaves, central stalk removed
1 ½ firm fish fillets or steaks (bluefish, kingfish or mackerel)

Break achiote paste into small chunks and place in food processor or blender. Add juice, process until smooth and set aside. Heat oven to 400. Place potatoes in a bowl, coat with vegetable oil, season with salt and toss. Spread potatoes in single layer on nonstick baking sheet. Bake on center rack 20 minutes until tender, turning halfway through. Remove to cool. Increase temperature to 500 and move shelf to lower third. Cut 4 14-inch squares of foil and lay a banana leaf, shiny side down, on each. Arrange ¼ of potatoes atop each leaf. Lightly salt fish. Lay a fillet over each mound and drizzle with 1 tablespoon achiote marinade. Fold in sides of banana leaves, then top and bottom. Fold foil likewise, crimping edges to seal. Bake fish packages 20 to 25 minutes, until fish flakes (carefully open one to test done-ness—it will release hot steam). Open foil and slide packets onto serving plates. Open each banana leaf and tuck under potatoes. Top with achiote marinade. Serves 4.


PHOTO: Brian Leatart
FOOD STYLIST: Leisel Maggiore
TABLEWARE: Living Green
FLATWARE: Turpan