Grill-Roasted Whole Fish Adobado

Pescado Adobado a la Parilla
Recipe from Season 6, Mexico —One Plate at a Time
Servings: 8


  • Red Chile Adobo Marinade
  • 5tablespoons vegetable or olive oil (divided use)
  • 5medium (about 2 1/2 ounces total)dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded and torn into flat pieces
  • 3large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1teaspoon fresh black pepper
  • 1/2teaspoon cinnamon, preferably fresh-ground Mexican canela
  • Apinch of cloves
  • 2tablespoonspiloncillo, chopped, or dark brown sugar
  • 1/3cup cider vinegar
  • Salt
  • 22 1/2 - to 3-pound whole fish (preferably farm raised stripped bass or red snapper), gutted, scaled, gills cut out and fins trimmed
  • 3 or 4large limes (divided use)
  • 2large (about 1 pound) red onions, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • About 2 1/2pounds (about 20) small red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and halved
  • About 1/2cup chopped cilantro


  1.  Make the marinade. Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a medium skillet over medium. When hot, oil-toast the chiles a couple of pieces at a time until aromatic and blistered, a few seconds per side. Remove to a bowl. When all are toasted, pour in 1 2/3 cups hot tap water; weight with a plate to keep the chiles submerged. Let rehydrate for about 20 minutes. Discard the oil.In a blender or food processor, combine the garlic, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, sugar, vinegar and a generous tablespoon salt - it is critical that this marinade be salty since it seasons all the fish and potatoes. Pour in the rehydrated chiles, liquid and all. Process to a smooth puree. Press through a medium-mesh strainer set over a bowl to remove bits of skin and stray seeds. Taste: the adobo should be spicy, sharp and salty. The consistency should be like steak sauce - not as thick as ketchup, not runny like hot sauce.
  2.  Marinate the fish. Lay the 2 fish on a rimmed baking sheet (lay down a piece of plastic if you're using an aluminum baking sheet). Make 3 diagonal slashes across both sides of each fish, cutting down to the bone. Scoop out 1/2 cup of the adobo. Squeeze in the juice of one lime and stir to combine. Smear it over both sides of each fish, making sure to get it into the slashes. Cover and refrigerate.
  3. Grill-roast the vegetables. Turn on a gas grill to medium-high or light a charcoal grill and let the coals burn until quite hot and covered with white ash. Cut 2 pieces of non-stick heavy-duty foil about 3 feet long; lay one on top of the other, non-stick surface up.In a bowl, combine the onions and potatoes. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of the oil and 1 cup of the adobo and toss to combine. Spread the vegetables over half of the foil, fold the other half over the vegetables to cover them, then crimp the edges to seal tightly. Poke 1 hole in the foil package. Slide onto the grill grates to cook. After 6 minutes, flip the package over and cook another 6 minutes, then slide the packet to the edge of the grill to keep warm.
  4.  Grill-roast the fish. While the potatoes are cooking, cut 2 pieces of non-stick heavy-duty foil about 3 feet long, fold each in half (non-stick surface on the outside) and lay one fish on each piece. Pick up the long sides of each piece of foil, cradling the fish, and lay on the grill. (A thermometer in the grill should read between 400 and 450 degrees.) Cover the grill and cook for 5 minutes. Uncover and baste each fish with some of the remaining marinade. Cover and cook 5 minutes longer. Roll each fish over: use a spatula to move the fish to the long side of the foil closest to you, then pick up that side of the foil and roll the fish over. Cover the grill and cook for 3 or 4 minutes, then baste the fish with the remaining marinade. Cover and cook until the fish flakes under firm pressure at its thickest part: insert a small knife on one side of the (dorsal) spines near where the head and body join; if the flesh comes free, the fish is done.
  5.  Serve. Remove the fish from the grill and slide onto a large warm serving platter. Arrange the onions and potatoes on one side the fish, sprinkle with salt chopped cilantro and serve with the remaining limes cut in wedges.

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