Tacos on the street in Mexico are one of that country’s great gastronomic delights. Most typically, each taco is made from 2 soft and warm corn tortillas, folded together, filled with a little meat and salsa. A little further north, in the world of Cal-Mex, predictably, things change. The tacos are stuffed a little fuller, they’re less greasy and more salad-like. And in and around San Diego, you’re most likely to see tacos that have no meat at all—for this is the home of the fish taco, a breezy, delicious treat. The fish that will stuff it can be either fried or grilled—but to make the following recipe as Californian as possible, I’m recommending the grill.
Makes 2 tacos
two 4-ounce filets of any fairly firm-fleshed fish (red snapper, tilapia, etc.), each filet about 5″ long and 2″ wide
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon very finely minced garlic
1 teaspoon grated lime rind
four 6″ soft corn tortillas
1/4 cup Creamy Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa (see recipe below)
4 teaspoons sour cream
2 tablespoons shredded cheese (like Monterey Jack)
1/4 cup shredded cabbage
1/4 cup thinly sliced onion
1 plum tomato, cut in thin, long slices
2 tablespoons cilantro leaves
hot sauce (optional)
1. In a bowl, coat the fish filets with olive oil. Sprinkle on the chili powder, salt, black pepper and allspice; working with your hands, distribute the spices evenly. Rub each filet with the minced garlic and the lime rind. Cover and refrigerate for 4-8 hours. (You could use it right away, but the fish won’t have as much flavor.)
2. When ready to prepare the tacos, turn on a broiler or make a charcoal fire. Cook fish by either method until it’s just done, about 3-4 minutes. Reserve.
3. Place the tortillas on a griddle, or steam them until they’re soft and warm. Lay them out on the counter, making 2 stacks of 2 tortillas each. Divide the Creamy Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa between the 2 stacks, centering a few tablespoons on the top tortilla of each stack. Top salsa with sour cream, dividing it evenly. Top the sour cream on each stack with a cooked fish filet. Divide the rest of the ingredients between the 2 stacks, resting them on the fish filets: cheese, cabbage, onion, tomato and cilantro leaves. Fold up each stack of 2 tortillas and serve immediately. Pass hot sauce if desired.
Creamy Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa
Tomatillos, which are not unripe tomatoes, have a wonderful, mystical flavor all their own—something like earthy apples, with a little cucumber thrown in. That flavor is enhanced by the complementary flavors of avocado and cilantro. When you make a salsa that preserves the natural tartness of the tomatillo—as the following tingly one certainly does—you have a fantastic salsa with which to top any Mexican/Southwest fish dish. I especially love a little of this salsa on raw oysters.
Makes about 2 cups of salsa
6 small tomatillos (about 6 oz.), husks removed
1 Haas avocado
2 teaspoons lime juice, plus extra for sprinkling on avocado
1/2 firmly packed cup of minced cilantro leaves
2 large scallions, cleaned and finely minced (white and green parts)
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh jalapeño
2 teaspoons very finely minced tomato
1 teaspoon very finely minced garlic
1. Core the tomatillos, and cut them into small chunks. Place in a mixing bowl.
2. Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit, and remove the peel. Cut into small chunks. Sprinkle avocado with lime juice and a little salt. Add to mixing bowl with tomatillo.
3. Add the 2 teaspoons lime juice, the cilantro leaves, the scallions, the jalapeño, the tomato and the garlic. Blend well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
These recipes are from my book It’s All American Food.
Photo courtesy of BigStock