Fish Taco Fiesta

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Since visiting one of my newly discovered favorites, Blue Corn Restaurant, I have craved Mexican food nonstop. Fortunately, I was able to satisfy said cravings in my own kitchen with some epically good fish tacos and appropriate sides.

These dishes are all pretty simple to make, especially if you use a food processor for the pico de gallo and slaw. Purists would recoil at the notion of a shortcut for pico de gallo — the authentic version involves a painstaking amount of uniform chopping — but I’m not that kind of cook.

This menu works well for a crowd. It is easily upsized, and you can mix different types of proteins — chicken, steak, tofu — for the tacos. It lends itself to a casual buffet just as well as a sit-down dinner. Olé!


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Fish Tacos

Serves four

I headed to the market in search of mahi mahi, which is my usual choice for fish tacos, but they did not have any. I pivoted to halibut, which is expensive, but its flavor and texture are spectacular. Any grillable, firm-fleshed fish will work here — snapper, bass, grouper, etc. Just avoid delicate fish like flounder and sole because they will fall apart.

  • 1 pound halibut or mahi mahi cut in 1-inch strips
  • 2 tablespoons mild oil, such as vegetable or canola
  • 2 tablespoons chipotles in adobo sauce (mash chipotles if whole)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon salt

To serve: tortillas, guacamole, slaw, sour cream, salsa, etc.

In a shallow bowl, mix the oil, adobo, lime, salt and honey. Place the strips of fish in the marinade and turn to coat. Set aside for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Heat a well-oiled grill to medium high.

Place the fish on the grill, cover and let it cook for 3 minutes. Flip the fish and cook for another 2-3 minutes until done. (If you are unsure, cut a thick piece — if it is opaque throughout, it is done; if it’s still translucent, leave it on for another minute)

Serve as desired with taco fixings.

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Pico de Gallo

Makes about 2½ cups

Translated as “beak of the rooster,” this sauce offers a fresh, spicy kick to just about anything. With tomatoes at their peak these days, it’s a great time to make a batch. If you and your crew are not fans of spice, you can decrease or eliminate the jalapeno.

  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes (approximately 2 cups chopped)
  • 1 small onion (approximately ⅓ cup chopped)
  • ½ bunch fresh cilantro (approximately ⅓ cup chopped)
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • ½ jalapeno pepper, approximately 1 tablespoon, chopped finely (seeds removed for milder flavor, or included for more kick)
  • ½ teaspoon salt (or more to taste)

Mix all the ingredients and allow them to sit at room temperature for an hour or more.

Fiesta Slaw

I have offered versions of this slaw in previous columns. It works well with a variety of cuisines, particularly complementing Mexican and Latin flavors, as well as Chinese and Asian dishes.

This slaw makes a wonderful topping for the fish tacos, and the leftovers are great as a side dish with a future dinner or atop a sandwich at lunch. It keeps for about a week in the fridge so doubling a batch may be a good idea. If chopping is not for you, you can run the cabbage, onion and cilantro through a food processor. The pieces will be more uniform and smaller, which is just fine.

Making this several hours (or a day) early is ideal; it allows the cabbage to absorb the flavors and soften up a bit, and it allows the cook to check something off the to-do list ahead of time.

  • ½ head green cabbage, sliced in ribbons
  • ½ small onion, chopped
  • ½ bunch cilantro, chopped
  • ¼ cup plain yogurt (I used 2 percent because that was in the fridge, but any type is fine)
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon pickle juice or white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt (or more to taste)

Mix all the ingredients and allow to sit for several hours or overnight.

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Dessert

My inclination with this meal is to keep it super simple. We served a selection of cookies brought by a guest; this was perfect given the informality of our gathering.

If you want to stay in the Mexican theme and are going for a casual vibe, paletas, aka Mexican popsicles, would be a great end to this meal. In their traditional form they are made with fresh juice and contain chunks of real fruit. Reasonable facsimiles are readily available in most supermarkets.

If you are feeling motivated, flan is another traditional Mexican dessert.

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