How do you transform a simple piece of fresh fish into a gorgeous Yucatecan specialty?
It’s all in the magic paste, says Rick Bayless, as he takes us to the Mérida market to explore the region’s colorful, aromatic essential seasoning pastes (or recados). These magical mounds of spice blends become the base for grilling rubs, the heart and soul of tamales, the seasoning for all kinds of food wrapped in banana leaves and the flavoring undercurrent for tangy escabeches and slow-simmered stews.
We journey from an achiote tree to the commercial grinders for the seeds to Rick’s home to understand this aromatic, alluring spice so beloved in the Yucatán. Rick shows us how to make our own Achiote Seasoning Paste, and then use it for Short Ribs Kabik. Then we make the garlicky Recado de Bistec (Spice Paste for Meat) to use in the stunning dish of Pollo en Escabeche (Grilled Chicken in Escabeche).
The journey ends in the small Yucatán city of Maní for a bowl of pavo en relleno negro, a local specialty of turkey and stuffing flavored with the exotic jet-black paste of charred chiles.