Spice up your summer grilling with this fresh and fiery variation on the Mexican fish taco—as flavorful as it is simple to prepare
Some of the best tacos I've ever tasted were made in the kitchen of my New York City restaurant Daniel. My wonderful staff comes from all over the world, and we like to challenge one another to create interpretations of our native cuisines for the staff lunch we call "family meal." It's a real treat when our Mexican chefs make tacos. I love the fact that you can wrap your meal in a packet. I also love the classic mixture of ingredients: creamy, crunchy, tart, and fresh, everything mingling in one delicious bite. Tacos are the perfect casual food, and they're ideal for an outdoor summer pool or beach party.
This recipe is my own lighter take on the south-of-the-border favorite. I substitute grilled fish for fried, and, because I'm French, I use crème fraîche in place of Mexican crema (though the latter is delicious too). This dish features mahimahi, but you can use swordfish or any "steak" fish that's firm enough to cut into strips. For crunch, I add red-cabbage coleslaw made with white wine vinegar—the pickled flavor pairs so well with the crème fraîche. Thinly sliced radishes add a peppery note, while avocado contributes a rich and cooling counterpoint.
What's fun about tacos is that you can spice them up to your personal preference. Set up the fillings—including hot sauce and fresh herbs—buffet-style and allow your guests to assemble their own. This makes for an entertaining, interactive, and convivial meal. As a special treat, before the grill cools, you could throw on some pineapple and serve it for dessert with dulce de leche ice cream. What more could you possibly need for a summer fiesta?
What to Drink
"Fish tacos call for a zesty, bright, summery white wine," says Daniel Johnnes, wine director of Daniel Boulud's restaurants. Johnnes suggests a German Riesling, such as Gunderloch Kabinett "Jean-Baptiste" 2011 ($20). "Its crisp acidity pairs nicely with the lime juice in the tacos, emphasizing the dish's fresh flavors," he says. "And the wine's touch of sugar cools the heat from the jalapeño." For a domestic alternative, Johnnes recommends Dr. Konstantin Frank Semi-Dry Riesling 2012 ($15), from New York State's Finger Lakes region.
Fish tacos topped with crunchy vegetables make a festive summer meal. The tiles are by Mosaic House, and the small yellow plate is by Vietri.
GRILLED MAHIMAHI TACOS
Serves 4 (makes 12 tacos)
1/4 head red cabbage, thinly sliced
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1 T sugar
1 tsp. salt, more to taste
3 lb. fresh mahimahi fillet
1/2 cup olive oil
7 limes, 4 juiced and 3 cut into wedges
1 T 1 tsp. ground cumin
11/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 cup crème fraîche
2 ripe avocados
2 T chopped cilantro, leaves for garnishing
1 jalapeño (seeds and ribs removed), minced
Vegetable oil, for the grill
12 6" corn tortillas
1 bunch red radishes, thinly sliced
Special equipment: Twelve 8" wooden skewers
In a medium bowl, toss the cabbage with the vinegar, sugar, and 1 tsp. salt. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, but preferably overnight.
Cut the mahimahi into 12 strips, each about 1½"by 5", and place in a shallow container, such as a glass baking dish. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, half the lime juice, 1 tsp. cumin, and ½ tsp. cayenne. Pour the mixture over the fish, turning the pieces to coat fully. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
In a small bowl, whisk the crème fraîche with the remaining 1 T cumin and 1 tsp. cayenne. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Halve the avocados and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Add the chopped cilantro, the jalapeño, the remaining lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat a grill or cast-iron grill pan to medium-high; brush with vegetable oil. Grill the tortillas for 10 seconds on each side, transfer to a plate, and cover to keep warm. Skewer the fish and season on both sides with salt and pepper, then grill until cooked through, about 2 minutes per side.
To assemble the tacos, remove the fish from the skewers, then place a portion inside each tortilla. Add a spoonful each of the cabbage, crème fraîche, and avocado mixtures. Garnish with radish slices and cilantro leaves. Serve with the lime wedges and hot sauce.
The makings of a Mexican favorite. The tiles are by Mosaic House.