I have a dear friend who loves to perfect recipes. While I’m content to try something once and then move on to the next cooking project, Cindy will make a dish over and over again until she’s absolutely nailed it. Her pursuit of excellent food has benefited me many times over in the years I’ve known her, because I’ve often been one of her food testers.
There was a spaghetti Bolognese year, a winter of beef stew and a six-month stint during which she served a lot of cioppino. My very favorite was the summer when she was trying to make the perfect fish taco.
My sister and I were at her house the night she declared the winning fish taco. Served in warm corn tortillas, the fish was lightly breaded and fried and topped with a quick coleslaw and a spicy, creamy sauce. There were slivers of avocados for garnish and limes for a hint of acid. Whenever I eat fish tacos, I remember that warm night in her back garden.
Though I love fish tacos, I rarely end up making them at home, because of the frying step. My kitchen has no range hood, just a feeble exhaust fan that helps spread greasy splatter all over my cabinets. Recently, someone pointed me to Bobby Flay’s recipe for Fish Tacos, which has you grill the fish instead of frying it. I had to try it.
I took the recipe for a pre-Cinco de Mayo test drive and was entirely happy with the results. Bobby has you marinate the fish in a vinaigrette of oil, lime juice, chile powder and cilantro. The fish (I used mahi mahi) soaks up those bright flavors and the grill adds a smokiness that enhances the spice. As you plan out your spring eating, make sure to make this dish your Weekender.
Before you marinate the fish, here are a few things you should know:
— Make sure to use a firm-fleshed fish. Anything too delicate and it won’t hold up during the marinating and grilling.
— Don’t let the lack of a grill prevent you from making this dish. The fish will taste just as good cooked in a skillet.
— Bobby Flay includes an accompanying salsa recipe. While it’s quite tasty, I didn’t find that it was a requirement for a delicious taco. If you’re short on time, skip it.
— This is a fun recipe for a party, because everything can be made in advance except the fish. Put out tortillas and a topping bar for your guests. Just before it’s time to eat, cook the fish and dig in. Happy Cinco de Mayo indeed.
Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook, also called Food in Jars, will be published by Running Press in May 2012.