One of the reasons I like national food days is that they give me an excuse to try to new recipes. October 4 is National Taco Day, so I decided to try Grilled Tacos with Pico de Gallo, a simple yet flavorful meal which appears in Curtis Stone's What's for Dinner?
In his fifth cookbook, the Michelin-starred celebrity chef organizes meals according to days of the week and offers suggestions for cooks to save time. According to Stone, everybody is busy but home cooking is always worth the effort. As far as this recipe goes, he's right. It takes just 15 minutes to prepare and 10 minutes to make--less than half an hour from fridge to table.
In a recent interview with The Saturday Evening Post, Stone offered two pieces of advice. First, know where your food comes from and befriend the people who supply it to you:
Get to know your farmers, butchers, and the guy at the fish counter. Ask them how to best store and prepare their ingredients, and learn where those ingredients come from. It opens a new world of culinary possibilities."
Stones sees treating ingredients with respect as a farm-to-table process, so it's important to make changes along the way to ensure the best result. His second piece of advice is to make changes along the way as you cook:
Make sure you taste and adjust the seasoning as you go. You’d be surprised by how many people stop short of seasoning properly, which can make or break a dish. Salt is a wonderful seasoning that helps tenderize meat, and when added to baked goods, brings depth of flavor."
Stone first tasted fish tacos in Hawaii after he'd been surfing all morning. He spotted a woman at a beachside cart tucking mahi-mahi into tortillas and fell in love. He advises using very fresh fish and says not to omit the cabbage because it adds a nice crunch that brings out the tenderness of the mahi-mahi.
Stone prefers grilling the fish but notes you can broil it for about the same amount of time and heat the tacos over a burner (which is what I did). I also substituted Cod for the Mahi-Mahi and have used swordfish as a substitute for it in the past. Here's a list of fish you can swap out for the Mahi-Mahi if you don't have any handy.
Grilled Fish Tacos with Pico de Gallo
Pico de Gallo
4 ripe plum tomatoes (about 1 pound total) cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 small white onion, finely chopped
2 red jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 1/4 pounds fresh mahi-mahi fillet, cut into 8 pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 limes, halved
8 six-inch corn tortillas
2 cups very thinly sliced green cabbage
1/4 cup Mexican crema or sour cream
Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
1. To make the pico de gallo: In a medium bowl, toss the tomatoes, onion, jalapenos, cilantro, lemon juice and salt together. Set aside at room temperature.
2. To make the tacos: Prepare an outdoor grill for medium-high cooking over direct heat.
3. In a wide shallow bowl, whisk the olive oil, cilantro and garlic to blend. Lightly coat the fish with the oil mixture and season with salt and pepper. Oil the cooking grate. Add the fish and grill for 2-3 minutes per side, or until barely opaque when flaked in the thickest part with the tip of a small knife. Using a spatula, transfer the fish to a cutting board and let stand for 2 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, grill the limes cut side down for about 3 minutes, or until they begin to char on the bottom. Remove from the grill and cook, turning halfway through, for about 1 minute, until warmed.
5. Coarsely break or cut the fish into large flaky chunks and divide it among the tortillas. Top with the cabbage, pico de gallo, cream and a sprinkle of cilantro leaves. Serve hot with the grilled limes.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes