In America it seems Cinco de Mayo is just an excuse to consume excessive amounts of tequila. While I like tequila as much as the next person (well maybe just a little bit more) Cinco de Mayo reminds me of my Mexican roots. No I’m not really Mexican but as a little girl I really wanted to be. Like literally I used to wish I could belong to my babysitter’s family. Maria Martinez was the actual hired babysitter; but Jose, her husband, and all five of her children played an important role in taking care of me. I spent countless hours at their house. Their backyard was a dream. By no means manicured but perfect for a young child’s imagination to run wild. It was complete with a giant field full of wild flowers and a ditch that when enough rain fell we could race paper boats.
Maria, who I affectionately referred to as “Nena,” was an excellent cook. Caldos made with fresh chicken, stacked enchiladas, even just fried eggs, frijoles, and tortillas; everything she made was magic. Over the years the Martinez became family. I would beg my mother to let me stay the night and never wanted to leave their celebrations-weddings and baby showers were the best. Being an only child until the age of five, in my eyes, their house was filled with so many people, so much fun, and so much love. Everyone was so expressive and passionate, there was never a dull moment. When I was about 8 Nena and Jose became my Padrinos or God Parents, making it official.
Around the age of 12, as I began to assert my independence, I convinced my mom I was old enough to be home alone after school. As everyone grew older we have become less and less involved with each other on a regular basis but yet we are still connected. I know I hold a special place in their lives as they do in mine. It is reflective in so many ways of my life, my cooking and palette especially.So in honor of the Martinez family, Cinco de Mayo, and all things Mexican this month’s MAKE THIS MONTH: Fish Tacos!
What You Need
Mahi Mahi (any fish works, but I like the texture of Mahi Mahi stays solid in cubes)
Dried garlic, onion, oregano, cumin, chili powder
Tortillas (corn is better)
Red wine vinegar
What You Do
Marinate the fish in the dried spices, lime zest, chopped cilantro, and salt for at least 20 minutes. When adding the spices shake generously this is your flavor!!!
Pickle the red onion. Dissolve the sugar into the red wine vinegar on a low heat. Put in half the sliced red onion and let sit until ready to assemble the tacos.
Make the lime crema. Mix the sour cream with the juice and zest of 3 limes, salt, and minced garlic. Set aside.
Squeeze two limes on the fish. This should be done about ten minutes before cooking. Doing this too early with start to cook the fish and it will be tough.
Cut the cabbage into thin strips and set aside. Separate cilantro to be used as a topping.
Cooking the fish can be done two ways. One, you can cut the fish into cubes before cooking. You would then just throw the cubes in to a hot pan to sear. Once the cubes are seared, sprinkle with lemon juice and about two tablespoons of water to cook thoroughly. The other way is to sear off the whole fillets of fish. Remove from the pan and then cut it into cubes and continue with the second step. I feel like the fish holds together better this way. It’s not the end of the world if the fish falls apart because it still tastes delicious.
To assemble tacos cook tortillas directly on the stove or in cast iron skillet. Then add the fish, crema, cabbage, cilantro, and pickled onions on top. So easy and so delicious.
Tacos are clearly the perfect food; it’s protein, veggie, and carb all in one handheld bite. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find a decent taco in New York to save my life. This version of fish taco is a bit more complex then the street tacos that are more authentically Mexican, but I like to be fancy. Interestingly, although fish tacos have probably been consumed in Mexico for like ever, they didn’t become widely popular until a man name Rubio (Rubio’s fish tacos) opened up a taco stand in San Diego in 1983. He had been inspired on his spring break in Mexico from a taco vendor named Carlos. Ok, enough random facts. Make your fish tacos today! You’re going to need something to soak up all that liquor.
**By the way if you really didn’t know Cinco de Mayo is a holiday that celebrates the victory in 1862 at the battle of Puebla. The ill-equipped Mexican army overcame the
odds and was victorious over the French military. Although the war continued on for 5 more years the battle became a symbolic in the fight against foreign domination.