The mountains of northern Puebla and Veracruz are blessed with an abundance of freshwater fish. The combination of fish and pipian is unusual but delicious, and any firm fleshed white fish can be used in this recipe. Use more or less chile seeds, according to taste.
For the fish:
- 2 quarts water
- 2 pounds firm white fish filets
- 1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- salt to taste
For the sauce:
- 6 tablespoons sesame seeds, lightly toasted
- 3-6 tablespoons ancho chile seeds
- 2 whole cloves
- 1 – 2 inch piece of stick cinnamon or ½ teaspoon ground
- 3 cloves garlic, roasted on a comal or dry pan with skins on, then peeled
- 2 tablespoons corn oil, divided
- 1 cup hulled pumpkin seeds, plus extra for garnish
- 4 ancho chiles, seeded, deveined and soaked in warm water until soft
Bring the water to boil in a stockpot with the onion, bay leaves, thyme and salt to taste. Add the fish, lower the heat and simmer until just tender. Strain and reserve the broth.
Grind the sesame seeds, chile seeds, cloves, cinnamon and roasted garlic in a molcajete or spice mill.
Heat one tablespoon of the oil and sauté 1 cup of pumpkin seeds in it just until they begin to pop. Remove from heat and puree with the ground seeds and spices, the chiles, and enough of the chile soaking liquid to make a paste.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large saucepan, add the paste and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly to prevent sticking or scorching, for 15 minutes. Add the reserved fish broth, a little at a time, stirring constantly. Cook over medium heat, stirring from time to time, until the sauce thickens.
Add the fish filets, heat through and serve the filets and sauce garnished with toasted, coarsely ground pumpkin seeds. Serves 6.
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