I used to make these fish tacos all the time, but they disappeared from my repertoire for a while, as dishes sometimes do. Like all good recipes, though, it came back with a vengeance. Since I made these tacos this past weekend, I have been craving the flavors, which means I will have to make them again soon (I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I find myself bingeing on certain recipes for a while… this might explain their periodic disappearance). The best thing about this recipe: you don’t have to marinate the fish for hours because the sauce has so much flavor. However, if you do have the foresight to marinate the fish for a few hours or even overnight, you will reap added deliciousness. But in my case, as usual, this was about getting (hopefully yummy) food on the plate, quickly.
This is a wonderful dish for dinner for one or two, but also great for a party because your table looks like it’s overloaded with goodies. I like to top the fish with some guacamole and pico de gallo, also known as salsa fresca, made with chopped onion, tomato, coriander leaves, jalapeño or Serrano peppers, salt, and lime juice (mine has a slight variation in that I use apple cider vinegar, instead of lime juice).
Now, I’m well aware that there are thousands of different ways to make guacamole. Frankly, I like them all. The more avocados, the merrier, as far as I’m concerned. My version is straightforward, but I think it highlights the right notes. The pico de gallo adds a nice acidic point to the tacos and a dash of freshness that I think is necessary against the baked fish.
Prep and cook time: 40 minutes
For the fish:
2 fillets white fish, such as tilapia, preferably sustainably farmed (you can also substitute other white, lean, and mild fish such as black sea bass, catfish, flounder or trout)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin powder
Zest of one lemon
Juice of one lemon
¼ cup olive oil
1 smoked chipotle peppers in sauce, roughly chopped (optional)
Salt and pepper
4-6 flour or corn tortillas
For the guacamole:
1 ripe avocado
1 clove garlic, minced
½ roma tomato, chopped, cored and seeds removed
¼ red onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, finely chopped
Squeeze of lime
Salt and pepper, to taste
Handful of coriander leaves (for garnish)
For the pico de gallo:
1 roma tomato, chopped, de-seeded with core removed
½ jalapeno pepper, de-seeded and finely chopped
¼ red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
Handful coriander leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 375 F. Pat the fish dry using paper towels and sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of each fillet. Lightly score each side of the fish with your knife diagonally across. Lay in a baking tray or heat proof dish.
- Mix the garlic, chili powder, cumin powder, lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil and (if using) chipotle peppers together (The chipotle peppers are very hot, so I usually just add one, roughly chopped, with a little bit of the sauce for a nice smoky flavor).
- Pour the mixture over the fish and let marinate. If you are in a hurry, you can just let the fish sit in the marinade for 15 minutes, but if in advance, cover and refrigerate the fish for up to 4 hours.
- Put the fish in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
- In the meantime, make the guacamole: mix all the ingredients for the guacamole in a bowl or mortar and pestle and mash everything together. I personally like the avocado to be a bit chunky, but it’s up to you. Squeeze some lemon juice on top and add a few coriander leaves for garnish. Be sure to taste and adjust the salt/acidity as needed.
- Mix the ingredients for the pico de gallo in a separate bowl and let marinate.
- About two minutes before your fish is done, warm your tortillas on a grill pan (preferable) or large saucepan on medium heat until they are lightly browned but still soft.
- Assemble: layer the fish, guacamole, and pico de gallo on your tortillas and dig in!