Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Baja Fish Tacos

My first meal in the functioning kitchen wasn't something that I had planned to make at all. In fact, it came to be simply because a package of mahi mahi got a little defrosted when I had to take everything out of the old refrigerator to put it in coolers, and then finally into the new behemoth of a fridge. Love it. The old fridge, btw, found a nice home as a garage beer fridge for a nice man who saw it on Craigslist. I tell you what, you market it as "Beer Fridge for Football Season" and you get replies! (I'm a bit of a marketing genius, so watch out Don Draper!)

Back when I was a California girl, I loved Wahoo's Fish Tacos. For the longest time, I wasn't brave enough to try the fish tacos because, well, I was a weenie who thought fish was gross. We'd go and have family dinners there and mom and Perry would get fish tacos and rave about how delicious they were. Eventually, I manned up an took a bite.

Let me tell you, the idea of a fish taco is kind of gross. Fish. Taco. But then you take a bite and you realize that it is an obvious combination. Like macaroni and cheese. Or ice cream and brownies. It just works and it is an incredible taste sensation.

Since moving to Virginia, I've had just a couple of fish tacos (Baja Cantina in Virginia Beach is good). Most places here want to fry the fish. That's not the Baja way, that's the Southern way. Contrary to popular belief, some things just shouldn't be breaded and deep fried. See, the key to Baja Fish Tacos is the blackened wahoo or mahi.

Like I said, my mahi didn't move to the new freezer well, so I immediately thought about fish tacos. They are fast and easy, and I wanted to make something that would make my mouth forget that it had eaten at restaurants for so long.

I wasn't totally sure how to make them, so I went to my trusted and found a recipe to work as a starting point.

The first thing I did was open a package of guacamole and make some pico de gallo. Because, frankly, it was 8:30 at night and I needed food. Like now. In my belly.

I don't really measure much when I cook, especially when I am making something tried and true. With that in mind, here is an approximate recipe for my small serving of pico.

2 large Roma tomatoes
cilantro, chopped
1/4 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1/8 red onion (I usually use white, but I had a red one handy)
salt to make the tomatoes juice
juice of 1/4 lime squashed over the whole mixture

Sometimes I add garlic, but really, there is enough flavor with what's there. Since I didn't have fresh garlic, I opted to let the onion and jalapeno do all the work.

After satiating myself enough to avoid eating my own arm, I made the marinade for the fish. Again, these measurements are pretty approximate. If you want exact, see the Epicurious recipe.

1/4 cup vegetable oil (or if you're out like me, substitute olive oil and hope for the best)
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon (or more) chili pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

I sliced up the fillet of mahi and stirred the pieces into the marinade.

While the marinade and the fish were doin' their thang, I noshed on some more chips, pico and guacamole and sliced up some cabbage. (Because friends don't let friends put lettuce on their fish taco.)

The Epicurious recipe says this is a grill recipe, and while it probably would work best there, there was no way in h-e-double hockey sticks that I was going to grill instead of using my fancy new cook top. So, to give it a more authentic feel, I busted out the cast iron skillet and placed the fish inside over a medium flame. I didn't just dump the whole bowl in because the fish should cook, not fry.

It doesn't take long for this fish to cook, so after a few minutes I flipped it and moved it to a plate after about the same amount of time on the other side. I did add liberal sprinklings of more chili pepper on the cooking fish for a more blackened flavor. Next, came the preparation of the tortillas and then final assembly.

Back  when I was in college, I had this wonderful roommate who was an authentic Mexican (I'll post more about Ameila at some later date, I'm sure). She'd cook for us sometimes. She would always heat up our tortillas on a comal (or a flat, cast iron skillet). While I don't still have my comal, a cast iron frying pan is veeeery similar.

When the corn tortillas are soft and bendy, you put the whole shebang together. These, my sort-of-authentic baja fish tacos, were layered as follows: tortilla, fish, cheddar cheese, cabbage, sour cream, pico, guacamole. In an authentic taco you'd use a mayonnaise based white sauce that I cannot stomach making. (Mayo makes me want to puke.)

And here's my first meal in the new kitchen:

Oh. My. Gosh. I'm hungry again. Don't they look amazing? They were.

They weren't close to Wahoo's, but I wasn't trying for that. I just wanted something that would make my mouth happy. And happy it was!

Beau was out of town earning the big bucks, but I know he would have loved this meal. It did need a nice cold Corona with a lime, but you work with what you've got.

I highly recommend this to fish fans or people who maybe want to be fish fans but are kind of scaredy cats. You can't tell this is fish. You just taste mouthful after mouthful of yum.

So what'd I have tonight? Chicken enchiladas. See, I had to get 100 corn tortillas to get those three, so there will be a distinct Mexican theme for a while. That's OK. It brings me back to my So. Cal days.

What was the last dish you thought would be terrible but ended up being super yummy-rific?


  1. The white sauce is mayo?????!!! I did not need to know that. Looks delicious! I'm not sure I've mentioned this before, but through hard work, determination, and an internet recipe, I have successfully replicated the Yaki Taco at home quite a few times. Oh, and I went to Islands today. Don't be jealous.

  2. A mayo based sauce. Like ranch. Don't even think about it. (Just don't try to make it...eeew.) I'm totally jealous of your islands trip, and proud of your yaki taco! Move here and make me some, please.


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