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Achiote Grilled Fish in Banana Leaves

Sara
Posted by Sara on Jul 22, 2020

 

The weather has been so stellar for cooking outdoors, and because we’re trying to spend as much time as possible relaxing and cooking outside these days, my family and I are trying to expand our repertoire of grilled dishes. We frequently come back to the classics such as BBQ Chicken, but over the weekend we decided to shake things up a bit and try something new.

Our most recent Saturday night feast was inspired by our New Grilling Boot Camp menu featured the last two Saturdays this August. Our goal in this class is to show you as many grilling techniques as possible, and wrapping fish in a banana leaf is not only a really cool technique, it’s also an easy preparation that’s a lot of fun to make. It’s so delicious, and is truly a showstopper!

fish on plate

First of all, banana leaves are a Latin American and Southeast-Asian ingredient used to wrap foods; basically, wherever bananas grow you’re going to find banana leaves. You can bake, grill, roast and steam foods in a banana leaf, and they impart a delicate, earthy and fruity flavor without being overwhelming. The leaves are very sturdy and easy to work with, so there’s no need to worry about them ripping. You can always find them at Latin and Asian markets in the freezer section, but our local grocery store, Valli Produce in Evanston, is very diverse and stocks them in the freezer aisle with some other Asian ingredients.

banana leaves

I let the package of leaves sit on my countertop for about 30 minutes to defrost and carefully peeled off two of the large leaves for my grilled fish recipe. Lots of leaves come in a package, so I placed the leftovers back in my freezer for next time… I think I’ll try a recipe for traditional Oaxacan tamales that uses banana leaves instead of corn husks.

sara with banana leaves

The leaves are porous, which means two things: when using them on the grill, the smoke from the hot coals will permeate the leaves imparting a great smoky flavor on the fish. Secondly, some of the marinade will seep through the leaves a bit as they cook, which worked nicely to my advantage. As the packages were grilling, little drips of the marinade were falling onto the hot coals creating wisps of smoke that then made its way back up to flavor the fish. It was a win-win scenario! 

fish on cooler side

Let’s talk more about that bright red marinade. Achiote paste is the star of the show here. It’s called achiote paste, but actually comes in more of a soft brick-like form, and is very easy to crumble into small pieces. It originates from Central and South America and from the Caribbean, and is made from the bright orange-red annatto seed which comes from the achiote tree. Annatto seeds have actually been used for hundreds of years as medicine, food dye (used to color cheddar cheese!) and a way to color clothes, but in this case, we’re using it to season our fish.

achiote paste

The paste is made by grinding annatto seeds with cumin, pepper, coriander, oregano, cloves and garlic. It looks spicy based on the color, but it’s not at all, and is very kid friendly. It has a warm and tangy flavor that’s excellent with fish, chicken, vegetables, beef and especially pork. Speaking of pork, the most well-known use for achiote paste can be found in Cochinita Pibil, slow-roasted, banana leaf-wrapped pork from the Yucatán Peninsula.

Achiote paste can be found in the Mexican food aisle, and once you open the package, keep any remaining in a sealable bag to prevent it from drying out. It will keep for about a year before it loses its freshness.

Now that you’ve learned about banana leaves and achiote paste, you’re ready to try your hand at something new that’s sure to be a crowd pleaser! Just remember these few things:

  • Use any type of flaky fish you like; I used salmon, but feel free to branch out.
  • Give your banana leaves at least 30 minutes to thaw before using them; place the extras back in the freezer.
  • Allow the fish to marinate, refrigerated, for at least 30 minutes but up to 2 hours after being wrapped.
  • Set up your grill with a two-zone fire, meaning medium-high on one side and cool on the other.
  • Use a meat thermometer to tell when the fish is done; it pokes through the banana leaf very easily.
  • Serve with pineapple salsa or any other type of salsa you like.
  • If desired, flake the cooked fish and serve in warmed corn or flour tortillas.

fish taco 1

 

Achiote Fish Grilled in Banana Leaves

Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe

Yield: 4 servings

Active time: 25 minutes

Start to finish: 55 minutes

 

2 Tablespoons achiote paste

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 Tablespoons lime juice

Four 5- to 6-ounce flaky fish fillets, such as salmon, trout, snapper, bass or halibut

Salt and pepper to taste

1 to 2 banana leaves (thawed if frozen)

ingredients-Jul-22-2020-04-08-53-62-PM

1. In the jar of a blender, combine the achiote paste, olive oil and lime juice. Blend until smooth. You can alternatively use an immersion blender to make the marinade.

IMG_3467

muddling marinade

marinade-1

2. Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper to taste, and pour the achiote mixture over the fish, ensuring they are evenly coated. Allow to marinate for 30 minutes or up to 2 hours, refrigerated.

marinade on fish

marinade on fish 2

3. Cut the banana leaves into approximately 12-inch squares, and lay them out on a work surface. Place a portion of the fish in the middle of each square. Fold up the bottom of the leaf, covering the fish. Then fold in the sides, and fold one more time to encase the fish in the leaves.

banana leaf

banana leaf with fish

leaf wrap 1

leaf wrap 2

leaf wrap 3

4. To secure the packages, cut the banana leaf, with the grain, into 1/2-inch-thick strips. If the strips are not long enough to go around the wrapped fish, you can tie two strips together.

leaf strips

tie strips

5. Tie the strips around the package securing the package.

tied fish

sheet tray of tied fish

6. Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium heat with the hot coals/heat on one side, while the other side is cool.

two zone grill

7. Cook the wrapped fish directly over the heat until the banana leaves are charred on each side, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Move the fish to the cooler side of the grill, close the lid, and continue to cook until the fillets are 140º to 145º.

fish on grill

fish on grill flipped

temping fish

8. Unwrap the fish and serve with Pineapple Salsa (recipe follows) and your choice of side. Tip: serve with warmed corn or flour tortillas if you would like to make tacos with the fish!

unwrapping fish

 

Pineapple Salsa

Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe

Yield: 2 1/2 cups

Active time: 20 minutes

Start to finish: 50 minutes

 

1/2 fresh pineapple, peeled and cut into small dice

2 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced

1/2 red bell pepper, small dice

1 tablespoon fresh mint, rough chopped

1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, rough chopped

1 lime, zested

Lime juice and extra virgin olive oil to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

 

1. Mix together all of the ingredients for the salsa.

2. Allow the flavors to blend for 30 minutes before serving.

fish taco 2

I would love to see pictures of your finished dish! And this week's #tcbcookingchallenge in our private Facebook group just happens to be about fish. Post your images there to show off your skills.

Fish Challenge

Join our Facebook Group

And don't miss our upcoming Grilling Boot Camps on our outdoor patio at Lincoln Square to learn the ins and outs of grilling fish and seafood:

This class is limited to just 8 people so we can social distance properly.

See our class calendar

Yield: 4 servings
Author: The Chopping Block
Print
Achiote Grilled Fish in Banana Leaves

Achiote Grilled Fish in Banana Leaves

Ingredients:

For the fish
  • 2 tablespoons achiote paste
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • Four 5- to 6-ounce flaky fish fillets, such as salmon, trout, snapper, bass or halibut
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 to 2 banana leaves (thawed if frozen)
For the pineapple salsa
  • 1/2 fresh pineapple, peeled and cut into small dice
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, small dice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint, rough chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, rough chopped
  • 1 lime, zested
  • Lime juice and extra virgin olive oil to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

For the fish
  1. In the jar of a blender, combine the achiote paste, olive oil and lime juice. Blend until smooth. You can alternatively use an immersion blender to make the marinade.
  2. Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper to taste, and pour the achiote mixture over the fish, ensuring they are evenly coated. Allow to marinate for 30 minutes or up to 2 hours, refrigerated.
  3. Cut the banana leaves into approximately 12-inch squares, and lay them out on a work surface. Place a portion of the fish in the middle of each square. Fold up the bottom of the leaf, covering the fish. Then fold in the sides, and fold one more time to encase the fish in the leaves.
  4. To secure the packages, cut the banana leaf, with the grain, into 1/2-inch-thick strips. If the strips are not long enough to go around the wrapped fish, you can tie two strips together.
  5. Tie the strips around the package securing the package.
  6. Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium heat with the hot coals/heat on one side, while the other side is cool.
  7. Cook the wrapped fish directly over the heat until the banana leaves are charred on each side, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Move the fish to the cooler side of the grill, close the lid, and continue to cook until the fillets are 140º to 145º.
  8. Unwrap the fish and serve with Pineapple Salsa (recipe follows) and your choice of side. Tip: serve with warmed corn or flour tortillas if you would like to make tacos with the fish!
For the pineapple salsa
  1. Mix together all of the ingredients for the salsa.
  2. Allow the flavors to blend for 30 minutes before serving.
Created using The Recipes Generator

Topics: tacos, salmon, fish, banana leaves, Grilling, Recipes, achiote paste

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