Golden Fish Fillets (or Summer Squash) with Roasted Tomatillos and Fried Corn

Filetes de Pescado (o Calabacitas) Dorados con Tomate Verde Asado y Esquites Fritos
I know it may sound a little unusual to bread fish or vegetables with corn flakes, but it’s not only common in parts of Mexico, but it’s really delicious. If, on the other hand, bread crumbs are your choice, I highly recommend the Japanese-style panko—quite easily found these days—because it makes a crunchier coating than fine-ground crumbs. The most common variety of esquites in central Mexico is the brothy one: fresh corn cut from the cob and simmered with chile and epazote, then topped with mayo or crema. But if you go to the Mexico City suburb of Coyoacan or to the city’s Jamaica market, you’ll find plenty of stalls with esquites fritos, the fried version. Most esquites are made with dried red chile. Here I’m doing the fresh green chile version.
Servings: 4


  • About 1/2cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt
  • About 1/2of a 7-ounce box of corn flakes OR about 1 ½ cups panko bread crumbs
  • Four 5- to 6-ounce boneless, skinless fish fillets (most any medium-flake light-flavored fish will work: snapper, halibut, grouper, striped bass, cod, mahimahi) OR 1 ½ pounds large summer squash (or zucchini or Mexican calabacitas), cut into slabs a little thinner than ½-inch
  • 1pound (10-12 medium) tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • 4tablespoons vegetable or olive oil, fresh-rendered pork lard or bacon drippings (divided use)
  • 1medium white onion, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • Fresh hot green chiles to taste (roughly 3 or 4 serranos or a jalapeño or 2), stemmed, seeded (if you wish) and finely chopped. (divided use)
  • 2cups light fish, chicken or vegetable broth or water
  • 1large sprig fresh epazote, leaves roughly chopped, plus extra for garnish (divided use) OR about 2/3 cup chopped cilantro, plus extra leaves for garnish (divided use)
  • 2cups fresh corn kernels (you’ll need about 3 ears of sweet corn, though in Mexico they use fresh field corn at the “milk” stage—what we called roasting ears when I was a kid)
  • Vegetable oil to a depth of ¼ inch for panfrying


Bread the fish.  Spread the flour on a deep plate.  Break the eggs into another deep plate (or pie pan) and add ½ teaspoon salt.  Beat with a fork until completely liquid.  Spread the cornflakes or bread crumbs on a third plate; if you’ve chosen corn flakes (my favorite), use the back of a measuring cup to break them into ¼-inch pieces.

One by one, bread the fish or slabs of squash:  dredge a piece on all sides in the flour, coating it lightly and evenly, then use tongs to dip it in the egg, coating all sides, and, finally, move it to the crumbs and press an even coat all around.  If time allows, refrigerate the breaded pieces for at least an hour for the coating to set up.

Make the sauce.  Roast the tomatillos on a rimmed baking sheet (line it with foil, if you wish, for easy clean up) about 4 inches below a hot broiler.  When they have blackened on one side, about 6 minutes, flip them and roast the other side.  While the tomatillos are roasting, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil, lard or bacon drippings in a large (4-quart) saucepan over medium-high.  When it’s hot, add the onion and cook, stirring regularly, until richly browned, about 7 minutes.  Add the garlic and half of the chopped green chile and stir for another couple of minutes.  Slide the pan off the heat.  Coarsely puree the roasted tomatillos (and all their juice), onions, garlic and chiles in a loosely covered blender.  Return the pan to medium-high heat and, when really hot, add the tomatillo puree.  Stir for several minutes until the mixture has thickened almost to the consistency of tomato paste.  Stir in the broth or water and half of the epazote or cilantro and simmer over medium to medium-low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, for all the flavors to come together.

Make the esquitesIn a large (10-inch) skillet set over medium-high, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of the oil, lard or bacon drippings.  When the fat is shimmering-hot, add the corn.  Stir regularly until the corn starts to brown, about ___ minutes, then add the remaining green chile.  Continue to stir regularly until the corn is richly brown, about ___ minutes longer, then add the remaining epazote or cilantro and stir for a minute more.  Remove from the heat.

Fry the fish or squash.  You can fry the fish all at once in a large (10-inch) skillet, but the vegetables will have to be done in a couple of batches (or in a very large skillet).  A heavy pan will give you the best results.  Heat ¼ inch of oil in the skillet over medium.  When the oil is hot enough to make an edge of a breaded piece really sizzle, fry them until golden underneath, 2 or 3 minutes, then flip and cook the other side.  The fish is cooked when it will flake under firm pressure (it takes a little practice to be able to test the fish without breaking the crust too much.  Drain on paper towels.

Finish and serve.  Reheat the corn over medium.  If the sauce is thicker than a cream soup, add a little water or broth. Taste and season with salt, usually a scant teaspoon, depending on how salty your broth is.  Ladle a portion of the sauce into a warm, deep dinner plates.  Top with pieces of golden fish or vegetables, then scatter on the warm esquites.  Decorate with epazote or cilantro leaves and you’re ready to eat.


  1. Wow! Thank you for a wonderful cooking experience and delicious dinner. My son and I did the live utube class. I live in MI and he is in WA. We face timed while watching/cooking with you. Then had dinner together while still face timing. With COVID my husband and I have felt very isolated (he’s immunocompromised). This was a great way to connect and so tasty. I am not a seafood liker but this was delish, used cod. I cook a lot but learned some great tips, tilting pan while flipping (much easier), cutting corn without 2 bowls,, med high heat, growing your own epasote(my market it always looks like it’s almost dried so I pass it by), salting eggs instead of flour. I also loved the question on why not crushed tortillas, I was wondering that but have no idea how to send in a question, so thanks to whomever asked. Looking forward to your next live class and recipes. Muchas gracias.

  2. Rick, you are a fantastic not a cook but chef and instructor. I don’t know how you keep slim consuming corn, lard, rice, potatoes and those Mexican foods that contain a lot of carbs. Such carbs are not on my menu any longer. If I knew about such carby foods in the past I would h have greatly limited myself. But now I can at least substitute. For example, I use cauliflower for rice. But there is still Mexican plates that are low carb. Thank you for your recipes.

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