"Fantastic!" the recipe now says, in Ben's careful handwriting. I'm encouraging him to write in cookbooks, because it's a good habit, don't you think? To make notes about substitutions or improvements, about whether or not you even liked something. My mother does this, and you can practically hear her crisp Britishness on the page when you read, next to a recipe heading, her damning "Not worth the trouble."
But these fish tacos were a tremendous success: easy and fun and absolutely delicious. Ben picked the recipe out of Eat Fresh Food: Awesome Recipes for Teen Chefs, a cookbook that inspires him with its appealing, appealingly colorful meals. And, if the fish tacos are any indication, the recipes themselves are excellent. The fish was savory and well-seasoned and nice and brown-tasting, if you know what I mean, even though it hadn't been crumbed or battered before its time in the pan. I volunteered as sous chef, and so chopped tomatoes and onions and the like while Ben worked on the fish, and, as is always true for me, I loved helping. Partly it's because I love Ben's company and I love that he's cooking. And partly it's that helping signals that I'm not the one cooking. And I always love to be not the one cooking.
Eat Fresh Food serves these with Avocado Mayonnaise, which looks super-interesting--a version of mayo made mostly from avocadoes and buttermilk. However, Ben doesn't like avocadoes, so we swapped in our delicious chipotle-lime mayo, which was perfect.
For the tacos:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon chili powder (Ben used chipotle powder)
½ teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
1 small garlic clove
1 ½ pounds halibut fillets (or any firm white fish--we used hake, because it was cheap, and it was excellent. Also, we only bought a pound which served the 3 fish eaters plentifully. Birdy had cheese instead of fish in her tacos.)
8 6-inch corn tortillas
For the taco bar:
2 cups shredded cabbage
½ an onion, finely chopped
1 cup chopped fresh tomato
1 cup diced avocado
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
Chipotle-lime mayonnaise made by whisking 1 teaspoon of chipotle puree and the juice of a lime into half a cup of mayonnaise.
Combine the olive oil, spices, and salt in a pie plate. Push the garlic through a press and add it to the bowl. Cut the fish into 1-inch strips and toss it in the spice mixture to coat. Set it aside while you warm the tortillas.
Heat an 8-inch skillet (ideally cast iron) over medium heat for 3 minutes. One at a time, crisp the tortillas on each side for about 30 seconds. Wrap in dish towel to keep warm.
Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, then cook the fish for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until opaque and flakey. Transfer to a large plate and break the fish into large chunks. (The fish helped us with this step by breaking itself into large chunks as we were transferring it. Full disclosure: Ben needed help getting the fish out the pan as it all started to happen a little too quickly at the end, and it was sticking a bit.)
Give each person two tortillas and let everyone assemble the tacos as they like.
|The fish did not gross him out, which was nice. I was honestly surprised that he picked this recipe because he is not always wild about fish, but I concealed my surprise behind genuine enthusiasm.|
|Doesn't that look good? It got a little touch-and-go in the pan, which is why there's no photo of it actually cooking.|
|Taco bar. Any meal this colorfully interactive is bound to be a hit, don't you think?|
|That looks perfect to me, just like that.|
|But you know it's immoral not to add the rest--and then it really is even more perfect. Oh that chipotle-lime mayo! Don't skip it.|
|All of a sudden Ben is Mr. Raw Onion. I love the way their tastes evolve.|