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Scallops in Achiote Paste


When I first started to explore Mexican food, one of my favorite books was Mesa Mexicana by Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger. The recipes and ingredients all seemed approachable and the girls had a fun style. Now, it seems a little dated and knowing more about Mexican food, theirs is a very personal look at food south of the border.

One of the most successful dishes from the book is the odd Scallops Poached in Achiote Sauce. It's not like anything I've eaten in Mexico but it's absolutely delicious, especially if you like scallops as I do. I bet shrimp would work as well.

First you saute onions in butter until they've caramelized.


Then you add the achiote paste, tomato paste and garlic. Next time, I'll crumble it before I plop it into the pan.


Keep cooking until you have a thick paste.


Now add fish or clam stock and stir until it's been combined. Cook for another 10 minutes or so.


Remove from heat and allow to cool somewhat and blend in small batches, keeping in mind everything they say about hot liquids and blenders is true. Take care! Then push the blended liquid through a strainer, pushing with the back of your spoon. I'd think you could use a fine food mill, too.


Reheat the liquid and let it reduce a bit. Add vinegar. Check for seasonings.


Add scallops and gently cook until they're done, probably about five minutes depending on the size. Remember that you really don't want to overcook them! Add some cilantro or parsley and serve with white rice or tortillas.


4 tb Unsalted butter
1 Onion; sliced
1 ts Salt
4 Garlic cloves; roughly
3 oz Achiote paste
2 tb Tomato paste
2 c Fish stock or clam juice
1 1/2 ts Black peppercorns; crushed
1/2 c White vinegar
2 lb Sea scallops; muscle removed
Hot cooked white rice
1/2 c Pickled Red Onions

* Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over moderate heat. Saute the onions with the salt until caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and achiote paste and cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon to avoid scorching. Add the tomato paste and pour in the fish stock or clam juice and boil 5 minutes longer. Stir in the pepper and vinegar and remove from the heat.
* Transfer the sauce to a blender and puree. Pass through a strainer. The sauce keeps up to 4 days.
* To finish, pour the sauce into a large skillet. Bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in the scallops or shrimp, reduce the heat to medium and cook 3 to 5 minutes. Serve over a bed of white rice and garnish with the Pickled Red Onions or capers.
* 4 to 6 servings.

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