Pescado a la Talla (Contramar's Signature Red and Green Grilled Red Snapper)

Pescado a la Talla (Contramar's Signature Red and Green Grilled Red Snapper)
Marcus Nilsson © 2019

My family has two kinds of eaters: those who love chiles with wild abandon and those who really don’t. As you might be able to guess, the Mexican side likes their food hot; the Italians, not so much. But for a close family, Pescado a la Talla is the perfect solution. In its traditional presentation, a whole red snapper is butterflied and split down the middle so that you can grill the fillets on both sides of the fish at once. Two different salsas—a mild green parsley one and my hotter red adobo—are painted onto the two sides of the fish. The cooked fish is brought to the table on one platter. Everyone shares the same meal, but the spice lovers don’t have to compromise and those who prefer things milder don’t have to suffer. Both sides of this fish are delicious, and it looks spectacular, too. This has become one of our most popular fuertes at Contramar, where the waiters gingerly remove the flesh from the bones at the table and serve it with warm tortillas and refried black beans.

If you don’t have a fishmonger who can butterfly a whole snapper for you, buy four fillets instead and cook two of them with the red sauce and two with the green, in a grill pan or on a grill. You want the grill marks because they sear the sauce into the flesh of the fish. Both sauces can be made a day ahead and stored in separate sealed containers in the refrigerator.

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  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups / 40g parsley leaves
  • ½ cup / 120ml safflower oil
  • Pinch of ground cumin
  • 1 tsp sea salt

  • Safflower oil
  • 1 whole red snapper, butterflied, or 4 (8 oz / 230g) boneless red snapper fillets, with skin on
  • Sea salt
  • 1 cup / 240ml Adobo de Chiles Rojos
  • 1 recipe Salsa Roja Asada or another red salsa of your choosing
  • 1 recipe Salsa Verde Cruda or another green salsa of your choosing
  • 1 recipe Tortillas de Maiz, warmed
  • 1 recipe Frijoles Refritos
  • Additional salsa of your choosing
  • Lime wedges


  1. To make the green sauce: Place the garlic, parsley, oil, cumin, and salt in the jar of a blender and puree until smooth.
  2. Once you are ready to cook your fish, heat a grill to medium or a grill pan over medium heat. Brush the cooking surface with oil so that the fish won’t stick.
  3. Clean your fish well, then pat it dry. Using a sharp knife, crosshatch the flesh on the diagonal, making cuts about 1⁄2 inch / 12mm deep and 1 inch / 2.5cm apart. Sprinkle with salt. If using fillets, spread two of them with 1⁄2 cup / 120ml of the red sauce each and the other two with 1⁄2 cup / 120ml of the green sauce, being careful to coat the entire surface and get the sauce into the crosshatched knife marks. If using a butterflied whole fish, spread the red sauce on one half of the fish and the green sauce on the other half, carefully covering the whole surface area and working the sauce into the knife marks.
  4. Grill the fish, skin-side down, until it’s almost cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes. Using a spatula, carefully flip it over and cook the flesh side until it has char marks and easily releases from the grill or pan. Place it flesh-side up on a platter or onto individual plates. Serve with the warm tortillas, a bowl of refried black beans, whatever salsa you wish, and wedges of lime.

Reprinted with permission from My Mexico City Kitchen: Recipes and Convictions by Gabriela Cámara and Malena Watrous, copyright © 2019. Published by Lorena Jones Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

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