Thursday, June 2, 2011

taco night

If you're throwing a dinner party--especially during the warmer months of the year--and don't know what to serve, your safest bet is tacos. This hasn't been scientifically proven or anything, but it's basically fact. Vegetarian friend? Tacos. Friend on a diet? Tacos. Die-hard carnivore? Tacos. Gluten-free? Tacos. 

The key is to make more than one kind of taco (something with meat and something veggie-friendly) and have enough toppings for people to choose from so that everyone can customize their dinner to suit their own individual needs and tastes. Usually, I put out a few types of salsa and always, always guacamole. But this time around, I kept things pretty simple with chipotle crema and a mango-avocado slaw that could double as a taco topping or side dish.
For a little get-together this past weekend, I made a vegetarian mushroom-poblano taco (more on that later) and a fish taco that is kind of perfect in its simplicity. It's just a piece of cornmeal-battered, fried tilapia, crispy slaw, and spicy crema, wrapped in a warm flour tortilla. Simple and delicious. Although the vegetarian in the crowd appreciated the meatless option, in the end, I caught her sneaking a few bites of her husband's fish. Which is the sign of a really good recipe. And that tacos break all dinner party barriers.
Taco night with friends
Colonial cocktails
Black bean dip with tortilla chips, sugar snap peas, and radishes
Fish tacos with mango-avocado slaw and chipotle crema
Mushroom-poblano tacos
Mini frozen Key lime pies

Fish tacos with mango-avocado slaw
The only downside of these tacos (if you can call it a downside) is that you need to serve them immediately after making them. Fried food just doesn't do well if it sits around. So enlist a friend or two to help batter the fish as you fry it. This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled to feed a crowd.
(Serves about 4 people)

For the slaw:
3 cups shredded cole slaw mix
1 small mango, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 jalapeno, minced
1 lime, juiced
3 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper

For the fish tacos:
1 1/2 lb. tilapia filets (or any other firm white fish such as cod, catfish, or snapper)
1 1/2 cups fine ground cornmeal2 Tbsp. salt
2 eggs, beaten
Canola or vegetable oil
6-inch flour or soft corn tortillas

Start with the slaw. In a large bowl, combine the cole slaw mix, mango, avocado, cilantro, and jalapeno. Toss until combined. Set the slaw aside in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve it.

Cut the fish into pieces that are roughly 4 inches long. (Usually I cut each filet into two pieces lengthwise, then cut each half in half.) Mix the cornmeal and salt together then place the cornmeal on a dinner plate. Dip a piece of the fish in the egg mixture, then dredge in the cornmeal until it is coated on all sides. Repeat until all of the fish is coated. Fill a wide skillet (I use a cast iron pan) almost halfway full of oil and heat on medium-high. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the fish, one piece at a time, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Fry for about four minutes on each side, until golden brown. Place the fried fish onto a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with salt. Keep hot in a warm oven, if needed.

Finish the slaw by adding the lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, just before serving. Toss to combine, making sure the slaw is evenly dressed.

To serve, place each piece of fish on a tortilla, add a dollop of crema, and top with some slaw. Serve immediately.

Chipotle crema
You could easily substitute sour cream, but I like the tanginess of Greek yogurt. And it's lower in fat. You can make this ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator, covered, for several days.
(Makes 1 cup)

1 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp. (or to taste) chipotle in adobo sauce (mince the whole chiles)
1 lime, juiced
1/2 tsp. salt

In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients and stir until smooth. Refrigerate before serving.


Mike said...

Thanks for the recipes, Lisa! I think all of Jo's snuck bites actually added up to, like, a whole damn taco! I think I had 5. Is that bad...? It was so delicious.

Julie said...

Love this idea for a dinner party! I've done make your own summer rolls in the past, which has a similar please-everybody-approach.

Daniel said...

Chipotle crema: yet another sneaky use for Greek yogurt. Lisa, where's my Greek yogurt post?


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