The first time I saw the fish taco idea was a few years ago, in Cabo Fish Taco, a restaurant in the NoDa section of Charlotte. At the time, I didn't really like fish and found the concept of fish in a taco a little revolting, but things do change. I don't know if my tastes changed and expanded as I started cooking for myself or if my husband coaxed me off the ledge of fish hating, but now I love fish. Many people order steak at nice restaurants; I order fish.
All that nice bit of useless information to tell you that even a former fish hater can be won over to these tacos. The best adjective I can think to describe the taste is summery- they're light but filling, and healthy. I had seen recipes all over the place for fish tacos- apparently they're catching on- but none of the recipes I read at the time I wanted to make them really hit the spot for me. I decided to venture out on a limb and just sort of make up my own recipe. I think it went well. If you try this recipe, I hope you agree.
First, I wanted a mild, white fish. I went to the only grocery store around that has fish worth anything (and that's even a bit of a stretch) and bought haddock. I marinated it for about 30 minutes in a mixture of oil, lime juice, lime zest, salt, pepper, and chili powder. On my recent mission trip to Mérida, Mexico, the lime and chili powder are a prominent flavor combination. It's brilliant! Anyway, after marinating the fish, we grilled it. We love to grill as much as possible!
To go with the fish inside the taco-and here's where I couldn't find what I wanted so I made it up- I envisioned a slaw-type concoction made with thinly sliced red cabbage, avocado, red onion, jalapeño and bell pepper, lime juice, and chili powder. It turned out just how I wanted it! I LOVE when that happens!
So, we ate them for the first time about a month ago. We have made them twice since. We love them! On a hot day, they're refreshing and won't bog you down. When grilled, the fish takes on some of the smokiness from the charcoal that heightens the other flavors of the marinade. If you haven't made fish tacos, I encourage you to try them. I hope you find my recipe as great as I do!
Yucatan Inspired Fish Tacos
feeds 2 adults with small amt. of leftovers
1- 3/4 to 1 lb fillet of haddock, or other mild, white fish
2 limes, zested and juiced
1 avocado, diced
2/3 c. cabbage, shredded
1/4 c. red onion, diced
1 jalapeño pepper, finely diced (optional)
1/2 bell pepper, diced (I like colored ones but you can use whatever you want)
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1. Start preheating your coals. In the meantime, mix up the fish marinade: the oil, zest and juice of 1 lime, and some about 1/8 tsp. salt, a dash of pepper (3-4 grinds from your pepper mill), and about 1/8 tsp. chili powder. Mix all that up and either pour into a dish or a resealable gallon plastic bag. Place the fish into the marinade and marinate while the coals heat up.
2. Meanwhile, make the slaw: combine the zest and juice of 1 lime with about 1 Tb. vegetable or extra virgin olive oil, a dash of salt, pepper, and chili powder. Add to this the cabbage, peppers, onion, and avocado. Stir to combine.
3. When the coals are ready, prepare the grill grate by brushing it with oil to help prevent sticking. Place the fillet, skin side down on the grill and grill for about 8 minutes covered. At this point, begin checking the fish for doneness every couple minutes.
4. When the fish is fully cooked, remove from grill, remove skin, and allow it to flake. Place some of the fish and the slaw topping into a tortilla shell and enjoy! You can also eat any leftover slaw on tortilla chips.
- It is of course imperative to choose the freshest fish you can find for this recipe! The more smelly it is, the older it is, and the less likely it will be that the taste will be that great.
- All of these measurements are approximations, because when I cook without a recipe, I cook by tasting every so often. It's a good habit to learn!
- When selecting the avocado, find one that is ripe but not too soft so it will hold its shape. My slaw pictured here utilized a too-soft avocado, so it became more like guacamole with slaw in it. Same taste, but not quite as pretty.
- I used vegetable oil instead of extra virgin olive oil for the marinade simply because it's more cost effective. Use whatever oil you like, but since the flavor of the oil isn't the hero here, I prefer to use the lower cost canola or vegetable.
- You can cook the fish in the oven. I'd recommend either broiling it and checking on it after 6-8 minutes or preheating the oven to 400 degrees F and baking about 10 minutes before checking.
- Because we lead crazy lives, I haven't ever prepared a side for these tacos. For this reason the serving sizes may be a little different in your household. My husband and I are "good eaters," so the pound fillet may feed more like three or four of you. In that case, at least double the slaw. The more of that, the more delicious! I would recommend that this fish be served with something like black beans and rice or fruit salad.