I wasn’t sure we would get here but it seems like spring, although fashionably late, has finally arrived.
It’s at last the time of year to fire up the grill and eat outside. Tacos are a great way to entertain family and friends at home and here a few shortcuts to this maritime pedestrian delectable that you won’t need a personal chef to execute.
Fish tacos are wildly popular and easier than you think. While any fish can be suited for a taco, I like to use tilapia, organic if it’s available. Organic is a little pricier but the flavor is exponentially better than any conventionally fed, farmed white fish.
A lot of conventional tilapia farms use feeds that contain chicken and beef bi-products as well as corn to boost yields and productivity, leaving the flavor and integrity of the fish far behind. Organically fed fish farms use not only all vegetarian feeds but most of them do not use grains at all which lends to a much better flavor and texture profile especially with delicate whitefish.
Red snapper is also a great choice for fish tacos but not always as economical as other white fish. If you buy snapper from your local market, always ask if it is Genuine American Snapper (GAS) which is certified wild-caught and comes from our Gulf shores.
There are few regulations on snapper globally and some stores will pedal frozen, eastern pacific whitefish, call it ‘snapper’ and price it according to its familiar namesake.
A simple and quick fish taco that I love is paired with Salsa Verde and Strawberry Pico.Strawberry Pico 8-10 ripe strawberries (sliced) 1 shallot (diced) 1teaspoon minced garlic 1 serrano chile (diced or grated) Juice and zest from 2 limes 3 tablespoons chopped chives 1 teaspoons local honey Chopped cilantro (to taste) Salt and pepper (to taste)
To prepare: Mix all ingredients together and let them chill in the fridge or on ice for 20 minutes before serving.Salsa Verde 4 tomatillos 2 jalapenos 1 serrano chile 2 cloves of garlic 1 shallot 3 tablespoons cilantro Juice and zest from 3 limes 1/4 cub olive oil
To prepare: In a medium sauce pan, gently roast the tomatillos, chiles, garlic and shallots in some olive oil until garlic is golden brown. Let the mixture cool to room temperature and puree until smooth. Add in lime juice and zest and season to taste. This salsa is best served at room temperature and the cool Strawberry Pico will create a really nice contrast. Use the seeds and membranes from the chiles for a spicier salsa or exclude them for something more on the mild side.
To prepare the fish, simply season it with whatever you prefer. I recommend a mixture of salt, white pepper, smoked paprika and ground cumin. Lightly oil the fish and sear it on a preheated grill. Do not play with your fish. Moving it around, poking it, and checking it every 20 seconds will rob you of the toasted spices and crust you will achieve by letting it sear for 2 to 3 minutes and turning it only once.
When you have the irresistible urge to do so, put down the spatula and sip some sangria. Repeat as needed until fish is properly seared.
When the fish is well rested, take another sip of sangria and use a fork to flake the flesh of the fish. Serve it alongside some warm tortillas, crisp lettuce or cabbage, Salsa Verde and Strawberry Pico.
Another inexpensive and low intensity protein for tacos is chicken. Organic is the way to go here as well for a lot of the same reasons but it’s not always the most economic choice. Some markets in our area sell a rotisserie chicken that is great for a taco application, especially if it is smoked. These are very inexpensive and the meat generally falls right off the bone.
To prepare the chicken, saute some chiles, bell peppers, onions and tomatillos on medium-high heat until onions are translucent. Add some chopped garlic, ground cumin and a touch of cinnamon and fold pulled chicken into the mixture. I am no stranger to tossing in a splash of beer at this point and a little bacon fat and I hope you are compelled to do the same. Let this mixture warm through, season it to taste and serve it along side some soft white corn tortillas with your favorite salsas, guacamole and of course, sangria.
Note: Youmust be
outdoors, in the early evening sun with your favorite people to fully enjoy these dishes. Bon Appetit.
Chef Kelli Daniels is owner and operator of Good You Mobile Vending and Catering, as well as the chief dishwasher, a restaurant consultant, sister, daughter, a lover AND a fighter, metro cyclist, socialite, epicurean and drinker of strong coffee.