Skinny Girls Roadshow LIVE from Mexico — El Mercado de Pescado

We love the food at Casa Tres Coronitas — prepared by the house cook, Marilu — especially the first couple days we are here. But after a few days, we’re ready for a change… if not wanting to necessarily  leave this perfect paradise.


“I would like it if you cooked a couple nights,” Leslie said last time we were here. But we never had the courage to approach Marilu with this proposition, both out of fear of hurting her feelings, and an inability to communicate the point to her anyway. But when I mentioned it to Monica, who speaks fluent Spanish, she was insistent. “Oh, of course you will cook! I already told Marilu that you were a chef and you wanted to cook.”

And so I would cook.

We had thrown the idea around of making dinner one night for the house staff, and of inviting our boat captain Mario and his wife and new baby daughter. Don had suggested cooking a whole goat. (Don likes to suggest cooking whole animals.) Perhaps later in the week we would do this, maybe after the farmer’s market that I wanted to visit on Saturday. Tonight, I would cook, and I would cook seafood from the mercado de pescado — the fish market.


Ernesto, our nuevo amigo, picked Don Schneider and me up in his taxi at the house. We asked him to take us to the liquor store first to get some sipping tequila. “You like to smoke?” he said, pantomiming an imaginary reefer to his lips suggestively. No, not really, we replied.

We got our tequila en route to the market, then Donnie ran across the street to get a couple cold cervezas. “You look like a party guy,” Ernesto whispered to me when Donnie was out of earshot, as if he was the oppressive factor keeping me tethered to my tenuous respectability. “You like some drugs?” he tried again. No, I assured him, I was good with my tequila. Ernesto must’ve been in line for a commission from the dealer, Don and I suspected.

Señor Donnie takes care of business

Señor Donnie takes care of business

The fish market was located in a grungy part of town clearly unfrequented by the tourism trade. While not impressive on a scale of, say, the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo or the Rialto Fish Market in Venice, the selection was good and everything looked fresh and smelled briny. We went eyeball to eyeball with various snappers, tunas, rockfish, dorado, shrimp of every size… as well as adjacent stalls of meat, produce and assorted sundries. We left with a small octopus, a kilo of the biggest shrimp they had, a bag of oysters and two kilos of clams — plus some chicharones to munch in the car. We didn’t do so well on Monica’s request for some fresh arugula. The closest thing we could find was… yes, you guessed it — cilantro. I did discover a bunch of purslane (fancy name for a fairly persistent but tasty weed that grows up through cracks in the pavement back home) and so bought that.

Marilu was very generous in offering to clean shrimp, scrub clams, wash onions and perform any other prep tasks that would’ve otherwise gotten in the way of my sitting around and drinking. The cleaned shrimp, shells left on, I marinated for the grill in orange juice, lime, garlic, paprika and oregano. The purslane and cooked in oil and garlic in a hot pan, and finished with a little butter and ground ancho chili.


As good as everything was, it was the clams that to my palate were truly transformative. I steamed them in some Mexican lager with a toasted ancho chili, finished with a bit of cream and masa harina and some cilantro. Served with a side of that quick-seared purslane, they could make a fantastic and unexpected Mexican dinner far from the obvious usual suspects.

In the meantime, I’m off to the sea to find some erisos

*    *    *

Mariscos de Bahia de Banderas (Pacific Mexican clams)
serves 4 as an appetizer

2 lbs. large clams, scrubbed
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small white onion, slivered
1 small tomato, chopped
1/2 cup Mexican lager
1/2 cream
1 tsp. masa harina (corn flour)
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Place olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for one minute, until soft. Add onion and tomato, and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Turn heat to high. Add clams and beer, and cover. Steam for 3 to 5 minutes, until all clams have opened. Remove clams from pan to a plate.

With heat still on high, reduce liquid by half (this should take a few minutes). Add cream and masa harina, and reduce again by half until thick and creamy. Toss clams back into the sauce, sprinkle with cilantro, toss again and remove clams with sauce to a large serving platter (or individual plates). Serve with the same kind of lager you cooked the clams in.

(*Note: to add a little spice, add one thinly sliced jalapeño pepper at the same stage you add the onions and tomato.)

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Andy
    Mar 21, 2014 @ 01:31:30

    Dude my brother, I’m not going to be shy here, be fucking careful in Mexico when people are offering you drugs. It’s the most corrupt place in the US and I’m scared every time you go there and act so casual. If anyone has offered you drugs, someone there has their eye on you. Protect yourself and your family. I know I sound paranoid as hell but that place is not safe. Sorry to say it on your blog…but wondering if anyone else has the cautionary attitude.


  2. Jessamine in PDX
    Mar 21, 2014 @ 19:11:52

    We were offered lots of drugs last time I was in Mexico — everything from pot to coke. It was especially embarrassing b/c my husband and I were traveling (and often walking) with my parents when this would happen. I guess we also looked like we like to party. We would just politely decline and that was that. I know the drug trade is a much more intense thing in Mexico but I figure stuff like that is pretty minor. I get asked the same question in other tropical destinations (St. Maarten, Grand Cayman) and respond the same way.

    At any rate — those clams!! They look fabulous!


    • scolgin
      Mar 21, 2014 @ 19:48:49

      I think it sounds like a bigger deal than it is when you’re north of the border. Down here, it’s just like, “Oh, no gracias!” Same with the time shares and the guys beckoning you into their restaurant. It’s a cultural thing. The intensity of the drug trade down here is more on the trafficking level, not the taxi guy selling an ounce of pot. And they’re EXTREMELY careful not to involve the tourism trade. In fact, tourism has actually gotten much safer down here than it was in the days of the Federalé shake down. I just eat clams, drink tequila and watch the whales swim by…


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