Can you believe it’s September already? I can’t. In fact, I won’t. I am hanging on to the last vestiges of summer and I am not letting go. Oh, I’ll be ready for chunky sweaters and apple spice muffins soon enough, but it’s 70 degrees out and I am firmly in a late July, Corona-drinking, lime wedge garnishing frame of mind. So stay back, September, we’re having fish tacos for dinner. And we are eating outside.
In Baja, Mexico and Southern California, fish tacos are a regional specialty, typically served as fried strips of battered white fish with thin strips of crunchy cabbage and a rich crema. Frying is more of a special-occasion prep in my house (mostly because it makes a mess and I always burn an extremity or two) so I’ve baked the mahi mahi for these tacos. The firm, meaty texture and mild flavor of mahi mahi work especially well, though you can use any whitefish you like, grilled, sauteéd or baked. (In the photo above I used ling cod, but mahi mahi remains my favorite; a sauté will save you some time.)
Serve them with the usual taco fixings: hot sauce, avocado, pico de gallo, shredded lettuce. I’ve skipped the cheese but kept the sour cream as a nod to a Baja white sauce, and you can fancy it up with herbs or chili powder or leave it plain. (Plain sour cream is just fine in my book. Use the full-fat kind and use less.) Gunning for the title of “Prettiest Condiment In All The Land” are Rick Bayless’ quick pickled onions, a tangy-crisp topping whose color lies somewhere on the spectrum between “Barbie’s Dreamhouse” and “Princess Pink”. They lend a bit of Cal-Mex authenticity and a bright zing of acidity along with their unicorn-loving good looks.
One side note: if you’re getting home late from work and don’t have an hour to marinate the fish, just go for it and proceed with the recipe anyway. (Who’s going to know?) Shake off the day, crack that Corona, pass the hot sauce, and enjoy.
Mahi Mahi Tacos
- 24 ounces mahi mahi (or other flaky white fish)
- 1/3 C olive oil
- 2 Tbsp lime juice
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp chipotle powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- optional: 1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, minced
In a casserole, whisk marinade ingredients together. Marinate fish for one hour.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. (Allow fish to come to cool room temperature while the oven heats up.) Pour off excess marinade, season with salt and bake fish until the meat is barely opaque and flaky. (Or cook until the fish registers an internal temperature of 140 degrees, about half an hour.)
Lightly flake the fish. Serve warm, with small corn tortillas, pickled red onions (recipe follows) and taco fixings: sour cream, pico de gallo, diced avocado, finely chopped cilantro, hot sauce, etc.
Quick Pickled Onions
adapted from Rick Bayless
- one medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 C cider vinegar
- 1/2 tsp salt
In a small saucepan, bring two cups of water to a boil. Blanch onions for one minute; drain in a colander and rinse with cold water. To the empty saucepan, add vinegar, onions, salt and just enough (cold) water to cover the onions.
Over high heat, bring to a boil and simmer for one minute. Take off heat and let cool. Remove onions and brine to a glass container; onions will crisp and turn bright pink as they cool.
Onions will keep, covered and in the fridge, for several weeks.