Skinny Girls Roadshow LIVE from Mexico — Turf & Surf

El pescado y yo

El pescado y yo

“What would you like for dinner?” the house chef, Marilu, asked us in Spanish. And we stood puzzling at her, since our Spanish is not that good.

Eventually we figured it out, and I suggested carne asada — grilled steak. It had clearly been sometime since any houseguests had requested this, since the grill was in an advanced state of rust decomposition, and much of the staff’s time that afternoon was spent scrubbing, soaking and scouring it.

Back at home, carne asada has come to mean thinly sliced skirt steak marinated in lime juice, onions, cilantro and miscellaneous other spices before it is grilled, which I often find dries the meat out. In Mexico, the meat is often left more simple — salt and pepper, grilled with scallions, which is my preference. Marilu asked if we wanted “delgado” — thin — or rib eye. (Don’t ever ask me if I want anything else OR rib eye, by the way.) So it was decided the kids would get delgado and the grown ups rib eye.

How it worked out, when the two types of steak arrived at the table and the children began chirping like baby birds, “Steak! Steak! Steak! Steak!”, was that the adults were lucky to get anything at all.

Carne delgado on the grill

Carne delgado on the grill

I made quick and decisive grabs and secured myself a few chunks of rib eye cap which, wrapped in a flour tortilla with salsa and a grilled scallion, was pretty close to the best thing I’ve ever had. I also snuck a bit of the “kid” steak and that was delicious too.

*    *    *

We’d been sitting around the house all week and decided it was time for an adventure. So the next day we contacted our amigo Mario and chartered his boat to take us out snorkeling and fishing. We drove 20 minutes through the jungle to the tiny town of Boca de Tomatlan, where Mario lives.

He explained to us that the best fishing was in the morning, and it was now past 1 p.m. But he dropped lines and we trolled the line where the brown Tomatlan river water met the blue sea water as we set off for Mario’s favorite secret snorkeling spot. My pal Nat winced at our prospects.

“We’re not gonna catch anything,” he sighed. “Did you see those plastic lures?”

The hooks were set with super cute, colorful plastic squid lures that looked a lot like my 3 year-old daughter’s bath toys or something a hip Tokyo schoolgirl might wear in her hair.

So we settled back and enjoyed the ride, pulling into a pristine cove and tumbling overboard with masks and snorkels into the water, where bright damselfish crowded around the enjoy the bread crumbs Mario scattered across the surface.

Back in the boat, we continued south toward the little accessible-only-by-boat village of Yelapa where a short hike, we were told, would deliver us to a spectacular waterfall. And then the quiet was broken by words we didn’t think we would hear: “Fish on!”

Mario and Flynn, reeling in the fish

Mario and Flynn, reeling in the fish

Sure enough, the rod was bending under the weight and fight of a fish. Flynn took the first shift reeling, Mario helping. Then Nat, his son Nat Wes and my daughter Willa each took a turn. Then it was my turn.

“I think it’s a whale!” I said, working the line.

While I was holding the rod, a flash of silver began to emerge from the blue depths. And then it was there, our fish — a bonito that Mario reckoned must’ve weighed seven or eight pounds.

On the beach at Yelapa, Dr. Nathaniel Parker whose sadistic tendencies had previously included forcing me to march up and down 205 stairs 10 times two days in a row, now insisted we watch as he dissected the fish and presented lungs, liver and guts before continuing on to the eyeballs.

Dr. Parker and the fish

Dr. Parker and the fish

It was the best day in Mexico — snorkeling, drinking beer on the boat, catching a fish, sailing along the breathtaking coast of tropical Jalisco, hiking to a waterfall and swimming beneath it, lunching on the beach in Yelapa.

Flynn & Willa on the beach in Yelapa

Flynn & Willa on the beach in Yelapa

Hiking to the waterfall

Hiking to the waterfall

Back at the casa, Eufracio and I filleted the fish, and I carved off a loin and slice of fatty belly. I hadn’t cooked in five days, and I was getting antsy. It was my idea to make something nice for the staff to try, with a little for us, too.

I seared the pieces of the small tuna and set them aside to cool. The house is lacking a knife of any significance, so I did my best not to mangle the beautiful fish as I attempted to make sashimi slices. These I arranged with my usual artsy fartsiness and topped with a vaguely ponzu-esque salsa and some “flower petals” of thinly sliced avocado.

It looked nice, and I presented it to the staff. “This is for you!” I said. Marilu frowned.

No me gusto crudo,” she said. She didn’t like raw fish.

The moral of that story is when you make something special for someone, make sure they like the thing you are making. Eufracio consumed the dish con gusto, as did the rest of us. And I did manage to find a couple end pieces of belly that were cooked through. Marilu tried them, smiled and nodded.

My Mexican bonito crudo

My Mexican bonito crudo

*    *    *

Mexican bonito crudo
serves 4 as an appetizer

1 lb. fresh bonito or other tuna, filleted and cut into 2 to 3 strips
1/2 avocado
juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp. minced cilantro
1 tsp. minced serrano chile
1 tbsp. sweetened rice wine vinegar (or regular rice wine vinegar mixed with 1/2 tsp. sugar)
1 tbsp. soy sauce
salt & pepper

Sear the bonito quickly on all sides (10-15 seconds per side) in a hot pan brushed with oil. Remove from heat to a plate, and place in the fridge for 10 minutes.

While fish is cooling, chop avocado finely. Add lime juice, cilantro and chile, and toss. Then add rice vinegar and soy sauce and toss again. Set aside.

With your sharpest knife, slice the tuna fillets into sashimi slices. Arrange artfully on a plate, and spoon some avocado salsa over the top, distributing evenly.

Garnish with some sliced avocado and cilantro sprigs, if you’d like, and serve.

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. rachelocal
    Oct 04, 2013 @ 00:39:41

    I feel like I was there with you. And tell the doctor to eat something while he’s down there. He’s wasting away.


  2. JC Williams
    Oct 04, 2013 @ 03:09:10

    Muy bien hecho, Señor Colgin!


  3. pal-O
    Oct 04, 2013 @ 19:15:42

    Hoot, fresh fish in the afternoon, sounds very Hemingwayesque with the beers and hot sun and the wrestling of the pole and line and the cowboy hat . . . Was the hike to the waterfall on that path the entire way or did it turn into rough terrain along the way? Looks like a pretty fantastic day all the way around! Uni any?


    • scolgin
      Oct 04, 2013 @ 21:45:35

      “Path” and “rough terrain” intermingle in Mexico, and sometimes you miss where one begins and the other ends. The urchins I’ve gotten so far have had very little uni in them, although I’ve managed to scrape out a tablespoon. We’re fishing early mañana and hope to come back w/ some yellowtail.


      • pal-O
        Oct 05, 2013 @ 08:23:31

        Now I have Mexico envy! Yellowtail would be good. We caught a mess in the Keys–delish!!

      • scolgin
        Oct 05, 2013 @ 22:14:31

        Caught 19 fish today. 17 bonito and 2 yellowtail, one of which we ate on the beach at Playa Los Animas as sashimi and then in tacos.

      • pal-O
        Oct 06, 2013 @ 04:31:36

        Fabulous! Neptune is good to the California Yanqui!! Was it the magic cowboy hat? Or getting up and going fishing early in the morning?

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