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I Never Forget a Taco. Fish.

I eat a ridiculous amount of fish.

…Yeah, that’s what I mean.

Sometimes there’s even some left over.

I happened to be making up a batch of mahi mahi, like I do, and had at least four fillets uneaten at the end of the evening.

Commence panic. FISH NOE CAN LAST!

Actually, it does. For a couple days, actually, assuming you obtained your fish from a reputable source. And honestly, I’ve become addicted to the offerings of Trader Joes’ frozen fish. They’re surprisingly good, but steer clear of their already cooked frozen shrimp. It’s not quite up to par; get the uncooked stuff and roast it yourself for best results.

But this is not a post about shrimp nor scampi nor langoustine.  Nay, I speak to you today of the classic fish taco. More popular in areas outside the midwest, it’s a completely different texture and flavor party than your standard Taco Tuesday.

Hopping in the wayback machine, I first experimented with these tacos (sexy!) due to having leftover cooked salmon from the night before, and some corn tortillas that I hadn’t yet stuffed in the freezer. Someone in my brain then looked under California. I’d heard on several occasions of this “iconic” snack, but wasn’t sure exactly how it would taste. I’m a corn-fed, beef-eatin’ midwestern boy (er, I was anyway), and thought the most adventurous a taco (or burrito) could be was “mojado” (erótico!). Or vegetarian (the what now?).

At that time, all I did was stuff the fish into the corn tortilla, and called it a day. What surprised me was the interplay between the tortilla and the fish. Because it was a corn tortilla (flour tortillas are bullshit), there was a characteristic sweetness that played really well off the more assertive herbal maranade that was on the salmon. Clearly, salmon was a bit strong for this preperation, but it set the fins in motion (badumtsss!). Clearly, a lighter flavored fish was necessary.

Fast forward a few weeks.

In that time I learned the technique of heating the tortilla directly over the flame to warm it up and toast it for more flavor and pliability (if you have electric, please do this in a dry pan that can take heat, or else you’ll fuse tortilla to the element, and that’s just a bitch and a half).

So like I said earlier, I wound up in a similar situation with mahi as I did with the salmon. The weekend rolled around, and I was in dire need of lunch. Remembering the previous kerfuffle, I tried to tone down the fish flavor with some celery. The taste wasn’t drastically improved, but something else wonderful happened: texture.

The crisp of the celery against the soft of the fish was fantastic, and completely explained why I saw so many fish taco recipes utilize a slaw of sorts. Aside from the flavor the dressing can bring, it’s truly about the texture.

I began looking forward to having left over mahi.

Which brings me to my latest experiment.

And I must tangent into a short side story at this point. Along with my love of fish, I have an unholy love of fennel that may actually be illegal in three states. There’s something about that hint of licorice that just pops so much flavor into anything. And if you lightly caramelize it, forget it. Bring me a change of shorts.

In said experiment, I had a bulb of fennel that I needed to use. I also had some left over mahi, again. The hamster on the wheel which powers my brain began to squeak forward at a medium pace. Also, I found greek yogurt in the fridge. Finally, corn tortillas in the freezer. I like all these things. At this point I required they get together and make love to my mouth.

First, I needed to devise something that would approximate the dressing of the slaw that others swear by. Clearly, it would be a yogurt base, as that’s what I had. Salt, pepper, cause everything needs that. And I like spice: enter ancho, chipotle and smoked paprika (wait, I’m supposed to say pimentón now). Oh, look. A lemon. Well, shit, seafood loves lemon. Let’s zest that bad boy and squeeze in half of it’s juice. Stir.

Dressing

The dressing

Enter the left-over fish. I personally warmed it up by simmering it quickly in some white wine, but, however you like to warm things up is just as good; on your car engine, between your thighs, whatever.

Mahi mahi

Mahi mahi mahi mahi mahi mahi mahi mahi tongs

I mentioned earlier I learned to torch the tortillas over the flame. Seriously, it makes a huge difference. I recommend it. It only takes about 20 seconds — as soon as you see wisps of smoke, flip, and repeat.

Tortilla

Mmm. Toasty.

Next began the layering process. For no good reason, I began with the fish.

Naked Mahi Taco

Nuuuude!

I proceeded by thinly slicing the fennel and placing it on top. And then someone in the back of the head reminded me I had capers I’d yet to get rid of leftover from my family’s holiday dinner. Well, shit, they’re joining the party. I think that decision was made after having an extra glass of wine, but it actually worked out well. But that’s poor foreshadowing.

Almost, almost, almost...

Almost, almost, almost...

Finally, all that was left was the dressing (which I had tasted earlier and actually gave me a raging semi). Which is an excellent aside, always, always always taste as you go. It’s amazing how you can catch exactly what could make the food incredible before the whole dish is assembled.

Mahi Taco

¡Voilá!

Garnished with the fennel fronds just to give a bit of color.

I hate to say it, but the dressing was the absolute star of this. The touch of spice from the chipotle and ancho gave an amazing depth of flavor to everything, and the freshness of the lemon (though I would use a touch lest zest next time) perked everything up. Add in the crunch of the fennel, and I could have eaten another three. Except that I ate the leftovers of the ingredients beforehand by dipping it into said dressing.

The coolest part of this whole thing is that, this is but one recipe. I’m starting to plan out something with more of an avocado feel. But this can be done with anything. You like mangoes? Throw those on top instead of the fennel. Try a different kind of fish. For that matter, swap out the fish for chicken. Or tofu (you sure as hell better marinate it first though).

Try shit out. That’s how got I fish tacos in my mouth, without eating red carpet (unfortunately).


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2 comments to I Never Forget a Taco. Fish.

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