Cook It Quick: Fish Tacos

Fresh fish, fast. And easy. That’s what comes to mind when I think of fish tacos. As the myriad holiday and end-of-the-year preparations are underway, it’s the kind of quick and healthy meal every busy cook has tucked in her or his sleeve. The fish tacos I first fell in love with over 10 years ago had lightly battered and deep-fried fillets; but more than anything, it was the garlic sauce that put it over the top for me — very distinctive, the perfect binding agent between the sweet fish and the crunchy but bland cabbage. I’ve since adapted the dish of my memories to one using flaked grilled fish, to save on both calories and time. Fresh or frozen fillets work equally well — choose any flaky white meat fish. The key is the fresh garlic sauce.

Purchased tortillas and pre-shredded coleslaw mix means dinner can be on the table in 30 minutes, and everyone can have some fun putting together their own tacos as they eat. But these also dress up well —we’ve included them with beef and chicken fajitas as part of a festive dinner cooked at the table with friends. (See last month’s post on How-to-do Tabletop Cooking) For a fajita-style presentation, or for tabletop cooking in general, slice the fish against the grain before marinating, and cut marination time to 15 minutes.

for 4 persons

2 1lb. fillets of skinned white-meat fish, such as ahi or snapper
Juice of 1 large lemon, about 3 TBL.
1 tsp. cumin
1 TBL. oil

Combine lemon juice, cumin and oil. Place fish in glass or other non-reactive dish, pour marinade over fillets and coat all sides. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Garlic Sauce
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup mayonnaise
3-4 TBL. milk (optional)

Place garlic and salt in mortar and grind to make a smooth paste. Combine with mayo and milk, if using, to reach desired consistency. Set aside to serve.

To assemble:
1 medium head of cabbage, finely shredded
2 limes, quartered
20-30 fresh corn tortillas, warmed and kept covered
sliced pickled jalapenos (not traditional)
homemade or bottled salsa (not traditional)

Remove fish from marinade and lightly pat dry. Season with sea salt and ground black pepper. Grill or broil for 5 minutes on each side, or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Immediately dress with fresh squeezed lime juice, and flake meat with fork.

Place warmed tortillas, cabbage, garlic sauce and other optional garnishes at the table with flaked fish. Let each person make their own tacos as they eat. Can be served with rice and beans, too.