Fish with Ancho Chile Paste and Cream
  • 2 dried ancho chiles (often labeled "chile pasilla" in [skipwords]California[/skipwords])
  • 4 fillet portions halibut, fancy rockfish, white seabass, or salmon, 4 to 7 ounces each
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1⁄2 cup creme fraiche (see Notes below) or Mexican-style cream
  • 1 tablespoon oil
Time Estimates

Prep time: 30 min, plus 1 day  

Cook time: 10 min  

Total time: 40 min  


  1. Slit the chiles open with a knife or scissors and discard the stems, seeds, and as much of the ribs as you can remove, 1.5 to 24 hours before cooking.
  2. Place the chiles in a small bowl, add boiling water just to cover, and soak one hour to overnight.
  3. Drain the soaked chiles and lay them out flat on a plate.
  4. Carefully scrape the pulp from the inside surface with a spoon until only the translucent skin remains. Discard the skins.
  5. Season the fish portions with salt and a little pepper.
  6. Rub about a third of the chile paste on the fish and set aside for 30 minutes.
  7. Combine the remaining chile paste with the cream and a pinch of salt and set aside in a warm place.
  8. Heat the oil in a large skillet (preferably nonstick) over medium heat. Add the fish, bone side down, and cook until the chile paste begins to brown.
  9. Turn and cook on the other side until a skewer inserted into the thickest part of the fish comes out warm. Alternatively, lay the fish portions face up on a rimmd baking sheet and bake in a preheated 400˚F oven until done by the skewer test. Either way, the total cooking time will be 6 to 10 minutes, depending on the variety and thickness of the fish.
  10. Warm the chile cream gently in a small saucepan while the fish cooks.
  11. Transfer the fish portions face up to warm plates or a serving platter, spoon the sauce over and around the fish, and serve immediately.


Serves four


Many Mexican markets carry jars of cultured cream, very similar to French-style creme fraiche. Both are less sour and less thick than typical American sour cream, and behave better in cooking. Far cheaper than buying either one is to make your own.

  1. Warm 1⁄2 pint whipping cream (look for the natural form, not ultrapasteurized and without any additives) to 100˚F in a double boiler.
  2. Remove from the heat and stir in one tablespoon cultured buttermilk.
  3. Transfer to a clean glass jar, cover, and let stand in a warm spot overnight, then refrigerate. It takes a couple of days to reach its full thickness, and will keep for about two weeks.
Good to know

This dish uses a little ancho chile paste as a marinade for fish, with more mixed with lightly sour Mexican-style cream for a sauce. It works best on relatively lean, white fish like [skipwords]California[/skipwords] halibut, white seabass (the local fish, not the oily Chilean version), or the best grades of rockfish, but you can also use it on salmon if you don’t mind the color of the sauce almost matching the color of the fish.

Steamed or roasted new potatoes make a good side dish; if roasting, you might as well use the same oven to cook the fish.

Which beer should I drink with this?

As with other creamy dishes, I find myself reaching for the porter, either regular or smoked.

Also from The Microbrew Lover's Cookbook

• From the Beer Belt

• Pizza and Beyond

• From the Spice Bazaar

• Malt and Hops, Meet Ginger and Soy

• From the Home of the Chile Pepper

• Beer in the Melting Pot

Go back to The Microbrew Lover's Cookbook index page.

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From The Microbrew Lover’s Cookbook, Copyright © 2002 by Jay Harlow. Used by arrangement with Jay Harlow.

Photo: cascoly/iStockphoto