Saturday, May 31, 2014

Baja Rice with Chipotle Hake Loin

The tastes of the Baja peninsula in northwestern Mexico come through in this easy to prepare meal. If you've been to this lovely area you know that its land mass separates the Pacific Ocean from the Gulf of California. It extends from Mexicali in the north to Cabo San Lucas in the south and encompasses 65 islands. Unlike much of the rest of the Mexico, meat is not the prime source of protein in the region, but rather fresh seafood. So today I'm cooking with hake.

Julian's Baja Rice with Chipotle Hake Loin
Hake are deep-sea members of the Cod family. Hake fillet or loin,which I'm using today, is cut from the fish and sold in vacuum packs frozen here in Chicago where I live. If you live on the coast, you may have access to fresh. I selected hake because it is largely used in Latin-American cuisine. Hake has soft white flesh with a mild, subtle flavor. Hake is considered one of the best fish in the whiting family because of its firm, sweet, white meat and medium flake. You could substitute cod or tilapia if you don't have access to hake.

Hake Loin in White Wine, Seasoned with Chipotle Spice
Ready for Baking. 400F for 20-25 minutes.
As the fish is so easy to prepare, I'm concentrating my recipe below on the rice dish. Simply rub the thawed fish fillet lightly with oil and sprinkle with your favorite seasoning. Today I'm using a spicy chipotle to keep with my theme. See my note below on chipotle seasoning.

The rice is equally flavorful and healthy, and uses a fresh long chili for a kick. You can substitute that with a more mild pepper if you prefer. Prepare the fish and serve it on a bed of this rice. No other accompaniment is needed, as the vegetables are combined with the rice.

2 teaspoons oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
1 fresh chili pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes, drained
1 1/2 to 2 cups brown rice (see note)
1 teaspoon paprika, smokey preferred
1/2 teaspoon cummin seeds
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
salt and pepper, to taste
cilantro, chopped as garnish

Rice note: Brown rice comes in two basic varieties. In the first variety, the rice is dry and usually in a box or bag. In the other, it is pre-cooked and packaged in a vacuum and shelf stable. It is in effect, ready to eat and doesn't require further cooking. In theory, you could eat it out of the bag, although I always dress it up with additional ingredients for flavor. Depending on which variety you choose, the cooking method is different. If you purchase the dry variety, the rice requires time and liquid to cook.

Pre-Cooked, Shelf Stable and Ready to Eat... sort of.
Heat oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers but is not smoking.  Stir in the chopped onion and cook for 2-3 minutes, until softened. Add the three types of chopped peppers and garlic. Saute 5 minutes to permit peppers to soften. Add beans, tomatoes, and the spices. Stir to combine. 

If the rice is pre-cooked as noted above, simply stir to combine, and cook for 5 minutes stirring regularly to allow flavors to blend. Let sit for 5 minutes, fluff the rice and serve.

If the rice is dry and not pre-cooked, add the rice along with the amount of liquid specific on the packaging (typically 1 1/2 to 2 cups). Substitute chicken stock for water. Simmer until rice is tender. Let sit 5 minutes, fluff and serve.

Julian's Baja Rice

Chipotle Seasoning
A chipotle pepper is a smoked, dried jalapeno pepper. From this they make a ground chipotle chile pepper, which is the basis for the well-known chipotle seasoning. You can purchase this pre-made or make your own from the recipe below. Simply mix all of the ingredients together, ensuring each is of approximately the same grind.
1 tablespoon ground chipotle chile pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons paprika (smoked paprika if available)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano (Mexican Oregano if available)
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

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