When I was visiting my friend Becki in San Diego, California many years ago, the one thing she insisted I had to eat was fish tacos. I had never had them and couldn’t wait for my first taste. We drove around and around, looking for a specific restaurant. I’m not sure we ever found the right one, but we finally stopped at Alberto’s and ordered tacos with “green stuff” aka guacamole. One bite and I was hooked. The problem with most fish tacos is that people treat them like fish and chips. They bread or batter the fish and then deep-fry it. This leaves the fish greasy with a coating that slides right off. Wrapped in flour tortillas and piled with shredded cheese and taco sauce, you wind up with a taco that tastes like nothing but the toppings. The delicate flavor of the fish disappears. A good fish taco has white fish, usually mahi-mahi, marinated in a spicy sauce and grilled just until done. Broken into bite-sized pieces, it is served with a light slaw and a squeeze of lime in fresh corn tortillas. The fish is hot and flaky without being greasy, the slaw crisp and refreshing, and the lime adds just enough acid to cut through the richness of the fish. Once you’ve had fish tacos made this way, you’ll never go back to the fried kind again.
Adding chopped chipotle peppers to the marinade adds some heat and a nice smokiness that is especially complementary to grilled foods. I like to serve my fish tacos with an avocado cream made from sour cream, guacamole, and fresh lime juice. It adds a wonderful flavor and creaminess that complements the fish without overpowering it. Grilled fresh pineapple lends a bright sweetness that sets off the flavors of the fish. You don’t have to serve it, but I think it makes the dish outstanding!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
To grill pineapple, brush lightly with olive oil, and place on a medium-hot grill. Cook until pineapple becomes golden and the natural sugars begin to caramelize. You can chop it into small pieces or leave it in big chunks.
Kitchen Skill: Pitting an Avocado
Using a sharp knife, slice avocado in half lengthwise, sliding blade around pit. Twist halves to separate them. Holding half with the pit in the palm of your hand, slip the point of a spoon under the pit and lift it out.
To ripen an avocado, place it in a brown paper bag with an apple and leave it on the counter for a day or two.
- Cole Slaw
- 1/4 head of Napa cabbage or other green cabbage
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- 1 tsp sugar, or more to taste
- 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
- Dash of ancho chili powder, optional
- Fish Marinade
- 1 to 1-1/2 lb mahi-mahi, cod, or other flaky white fish
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1 tbsp ancho chili powder
- 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped
- 1/2 tsp adobo sauce, optional (if you want more heat)
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- Avocado Cream
- 1/4 cup prepared guacamole
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 2 tsp grated onion or shallot
- Freshly squeezed lime juice
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 8 corn tortillas, warmed
- Lime wedges
- Grilled pineapple rings, optional
- Minced jalapenos, optional
- In a measuring cup combine vinegar, sugar, salt, and ancho powder if using. Core the cabbage and shred thinly. Place in a large mixing bowl and toss with seasoned vinegar. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat grill to medium-high heat, or light a charcoal grill. Place fish in a medium dish. Combine marinade ingredients and pour over fish. Let marinate for 15 to 20 minutes.
- While fish is marinating, make avocado cream. Combine guacamole, sour cream, and onion in a small bowl. Stir in enough lime juice to thin it slightly. You want it thin enough to drizzle over the fish. Add some salt and pepper, taste and adjust seasonings. If it is too tart, add a pinch of sugar. Pour into a squeeze bottle if you have one.
- When grill is hot, remove fish from marinade and place, skin-side up on hot grill. Cook for 4 minutes on the first side and very carefully flip over and cook another 30 seconds. Remove to a plate and let rest for 5 minutes. Flake with a fork into bite-sized pieces.
- Warm the tortillas on the grill for about 20 seconds on each side. Place a little slaw on each tortilla, top with some fish and drizzle with avocado cream. Serve with lime wedges, grilled pineapple, minced jalapenos, and remaining avocado cream.