Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Southwestern Fish Taco

Few ethnic foods get as much attention in this part of the country as Tex-Mex. Calhoun County has a slew of Mexican restaurants, and the grocery aisles indeed brim with the ingredients needed to make authentic fare from across the border.

Bring on the fish taco, my friends. Here's a video showing you how.

Fish tacos are among the most sought-after fare available from the abundance of marine life in the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean surrounding Baja, Mexico.

While the inhabitants of Baja originated the idea, we can thank a U.S. college student who visited San Felipe on spring break for introducing them to us. Ralph Rubio fell in love at first bite and was able to get the recipe from the creator of his favorite fish taco. In 1983, Rubio began serving his own adaptation in San Diego. Today they are gaining popularity, and different variations—whether battered and fried or not—are popping up on menus across America.

The Culinary Institute of America's chefs created the grilled version below that is perfect for an outdoor summer party.

Baja-Style Fish Tacos
Makes 8 servings
2 pounds mahi-mahi
½ cup vegetable oil
3 tbsp lime juice
5 tsp chili powder
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
1 ½ tsp ground coriander
1 ½ tsp minced garlic
Salt, to taste
8 flour tortillas, 8 inches in diameter
Southwestern Slaw (recipe follows)
1 cup Chipotle Pico de Gallo (recipe follows)
½ cup Mexican Crema (recipe follows)

Preheat a gas grill to medium-high. If you are using a charcoal grill, build a fire and let it burn down until the coals are glowing red with a moderate coating of white ash. Spread the coals in an even bed. Clean the cooking grate.

Cut the mahi-mahi into 16 equal slices.

Combine the oil, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, coriander, garlic, and salt. Coat the mahi-mahi with the marinade.

Grill the fish on the first side over direct heat until the flesh is firm and well-marked, about 2 minutes. Turn the fish and grill until cooked through, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes more.
Grill the tortillas until they have light grill marks and are heated through, about 15 seconds on the first side. Turn the tortillas and grill them until they just start to bubble, another 15 seconds.
Center 2 pieces of grilled fish on each tortilla, and top with the Southwestern Slaw and Chipotle Pico de Gallo.

Add a dollop of Mexican Crema, fold in half, and serve immediately.

Southwestern Slaw

Makes 8 servings
2 cups fine-shredded green cabbage
2 tsp lime juice
2 tsp honey
2 tbsp minced red onion
2 tsp minced jalapeƱos
2 tsp chopped cilantro
Salt, to taste

Combine all the ingredients. Allow the mixture to marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours before serving.

Chipotle Pico de Gallo
Makes 1 cup
1 cup medium-dice tomatoes (seeded before dicing)
4 tsp minced red onion
½ tsp red wine vinegar
½ canned chipotle pepper, minced
Salt, to taste
1 tbsp cilantro chiffonade (cut into thin strips)

Combine all the ingredients and mix well. The pico de gallo is ready to use now or it can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Mexican Crema
Makes ½ cup
½ cup Mexican sour cream
½ tsp finely grated lime zest
2 tsp lime juice
Combine all the ingredients and mix well. The cream is ready to use now or it can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Note: If you cannot find Mexican sour cream at the store, substitute regular sour cream. Mexican sour cream has a milder acidic bite and a little more salt.