A few weeks ago at the farmers market, we were on the hunt for fresh fish. There’s always frozen and smoked salmon available, as well as locally farmed oysters. But I was having a hankering for fish tacos.
We spotted a neon poster board sign written with thick black permanent marker. Fresh rockfish $9/pound. The farmer led us to an open Igloo cooler packed with ice and started rummaging around, showing us different packages of fresh fish. This fish. He paused, balancing the clear zip-lock plastic bag in his hand, thinking and recalling. Hmm. Yep. This fish was caught three days ago.
It’s one of the things I love most about the farmers markets. Unless you plan to grow and harvest vegetables yourself, or catch and filet your own fish from the water, this is the freshest you’ll find. (I’ve been given steep discounts because the arugula was four days old. I would have happily paid full price for something that, in my mind, was still fresher than I would find anywhere else.)
At the same market, we stopped at the Firefly Kitchens booth to sample their ferments and probiotic tonics. We are big fans of kraut and kimchi, but the cortido stood out to us. It was new, different, fresh and a little spicy. Cortido is a common Latin American condiment. The woman told us it’s often available on all the tables in all the restaurants in El Salvador. Full of lacto-fermented cabbage, carrots and onions, the mix is spiced with chili flakes and jalapeno. The perfect accoutrement for fish tacos.
We first had these tacos on Cinco de Mayo. (Of course.) I had been dreaming of pairing this delicate, tender fish with loads of mint, cilantro and lime. They were good, but not yet great. Craig suggested I leave a little bit of extra marinade set aside for drizzling on the tacos at the end, like a salsa verde.
I made them again the next day. I changed up the marinade to incorporate some thin, pourable locally made yogurt which made the sauce ever so enjoyable to drizzle on the finished tacos. Fresh cilantro and mint leaves, loads of lime juice, a little pinch of spice, lots of crumbly cheese and some thin slices of the first cucumbers of the season. Yes.
If you are gluten-free, or if you are just a corn tortilla lover, I highly highly recommend getting a tortilla warmer. I have struggled for years trying to perfect how I reheat corn tortillas. I’ve lightly fried them in oil. (So time consuming.) I’ve microwaved them wrapped in damp pieces of paper towel. (Good, but they harden as soon as they’re unwrapped and exposed to the cold air.) I’ve eaten them cold. (Uck. Plus, they fall apart.) I’ve layered them two or three high to prevent cracking and falling apart. (Still a mess. And a waste.) I’ve drenched each tortilla in water and tossed it on a sizzling hot skillet. (Nowhere near the perfection of restaurant-quality tortillas. And it makes my cast iron pan unhappy.)
I don’t know why it never dawned on me to get a tortilla warmer. I snagged one at Metropolitan Market and have been happily devouring perfectly warm, flexible, soft and supple corn tortillas ever since. I want to eat all the corn tortillas now.
I’m not usually a fan of plastic nor microwaving nor putting plastic in the microwave. But this contraption is so easy to use and yields perfect tortillas every. single. time. Plus, I love kitchen items that perform double (or triple) duties. This thing can be used to keep pancakes or waffles warm, too!
Seriously. Treat yo’self. Get a tortilla warmer. You can thank me with tacos.
Never underestimate how much assistance, how much satisfaction, how much comfort, how much soul and transcendence there might be in a well-made taco and a cold bottle of beer.”
— Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume
- Cortido kraut
- Cotija cheese
Herb-Marinated Fish Tacos with Cortido Kraut, Cucumbers and Cotija Cheese
Notes: The package of fish that we purchased included two long filets with tenderloins attached. Each filet weighed roughly 11-12 ounces. I cooked one filet (plus tenderloin), which was more than enough taco filling for the two of us. If you’re feeding more than two, use 2 12-ounce filets.
For the marinade:
½ cup plain yogurt
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
¼ cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves
½ bunch cilantro (including stems)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
Salt & pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes
1 12-ounce filet of tender, white fish (snapper, halibut, mahi-mahi or tilapia)
For the tacos:
6-8 corn tortillas, warmed
¼ cup whole or chopped cilantro leaves
½ cup cortido (or kraut or other fermented veggies; I don’t recommend using kimchi)
½ cup (or more) grated cotija cheese
½ cup thinly sliced seedless cucumber
Hot sauce or red pepper flakes
In a small food processor, combine the yogurt, oil, lime juice, herbs and garlic cloves. Puree until the herbs and garlic are chopped and fully mixed in. Stir in a pinch of salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Reserve and refrigerate 1/4 cup or so of the marinade for serving. Pour the rest into a baking dish big enough to fit your fish filets.
Nestle the fish in the marinade and turn several times to coat. Refrigerate for 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
Prep your tortillas and fixin’s.
To cook the fish, remove from the marinade and rest on a plate for 30 minutes or so until they’re close to room temperature. (Don’t get rid of the marinade just yet!) Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil to coat the pan. Place the filets in the hot pan, working in batches if necessary to prevent crowing. Spoon some of the marinade over top as the fish is cooking. Cook on one side for about 3 minutes. Using a fish or very thin metal spatula, gently turn the fish over and cook for another 3-5minutes until the fish is cooked through and flaky.
Remove the filet(s) from the pan. Gently flake the fish into pieces with a fork.
Load your tortillas with fish, cortido, cheese, cucumber slices and cilantro. Drizzle over the reserved marinade and add hot sauce if you want a bit more spice. Enjoy with a cold beer or chilled ginger beer and a big green salad.