The Edge Epicure
Building Tacos and Sipping Tequila
Unlimited variations on a popular theme
text & photos by Linda Lauby
What do you cook when you have no fewer than a dozen people in your beach house and everyone has different tastes and different levels of weariness from swimming, sunbathing and sightseeing all day? Whatever it is, it had better be quick, and easy. One of our favorite "fast foods" is fish tacos. Finicky eaters can assemble a satisfying meal of select ingredients, while food daredevils can pile on all that they can hold.
The recipe for fish tacos is obscenely simple; following are basic ingredients, along with some alternate suggestions.
Fish • Flour Tortillas • Vegetables • Fruit • Salsa
Buy the freshest fish available that's good for grilling: tuna, swordfish, grouper, wahoo, drum, amberjack, salmon, mahi-mahi (dolphin) or cobia (lemonfish) are all excellent choices. For our fish taco meal, we bought thick slabs of fresh wahoo, cobia and mahi-mahi at Daniels BigEye Seafood in Kill Devil Hills. Brush on a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and grill away. If you grill the fish skin-side down first, it's easy to pull the skin off with a fork or tongs after flipping it. Whatever you do, don't overcook your fish – it should be moist and flaky, not dried out and rubbery. If you want to venture further into seafood, try some grilled shrimp or scallops.
While you're grilling fish, wrap up some soft corn tortillas (we like the little ones) in aluminum foil and heat in a 250-degree oven.
The list of taco-fixings is nearly endless. Put everyone to work slicing, dicing, or just pouring store-bought salsas into bowls. Fresh or grilled vegetables, fruits and salsas are your best accompaniments for grilled fish. For this shoot, we served mixed greens, sliced red onions, chopped scallions, sliced avocados, diced cherry tomatoes, shredded mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, diced tomatilloes, fresh cilantro, and pinto beans heated up with loads of chopped garlic, a soupçon of molasses and a little white wine. We served a homemade salsa of minced jalapeno peppers, mangoes, diced red peppers, chopped scallions and a little lime juice alongside a store-bought tomato-based salsa with black beans and roasted corn. For those who want a hint of citrus, cut up a few limes and lemons for that final squeeze.
Assembly: hold a soft tortilla in one hand and add all the ingredients you care to combine. Fold over and eat. If you get really good at this, you don't even need a plate, but you may find yourself decorated with salsa, bits of vegetables and fish juice
We're also great advocates of sampling tequila while building fish tacos. Try a few higher-end tequilas, and please – sip these without salt or lime to mask their sublime flavors. Sampling good tequila is a lot like drinking good wine: you probably wouldn’t dream of
slamming back a shot-glass full of Puligny-Montrachet, would you?