Posts tagged ‘Mexican Cooking’

October 3, 2012

Weeknight Fish Tacos

My history with Mexican food was always a heart stopper.  Laden with gooey cheese and covered in sour cream, in my younger years, Mexican cuisine was a haven for excessive calories. Overeating mediocre nachos in college after one too many cocktails, long after the clock struck midnight, I thought that was real Mexican. You know those massive plates of nachos? A mountain of chips covered with a host of toppings. They’re still sinfully good, especially with a cold beer, but I’ve come to realize that most authentic Mexican recipes don’t even include melted cheese in their list of ingredients.

Time spent in southern California introduced me to the Mexican food I’ve come to crave. Full of fresh fish and lean meats, piled high with vegetables and absent the volcanic mess of cheese. Real Mexican food is an explosion of flavors and one of the healthiest meals I cook for my family.

I always serve these fish tacos with the same sides: warm corn tortillas, fresh sliced avocado, cilantro slaw, chipotle cream and wedges of fresh lime. This is an easy dinner to throw together during the week.

INGREDIENTS (Serves 4 or so)


  • 1 1/2 lbs firm white fish like halibut or tilapia (about 3 or so filets depending on size)
  • 2-3 tbsp of your favorite BBQ rub (here’s mine)
  • Light drizzle of canola oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Rinse the fish filets and pat them dry. Liberally sprinkle the BBQ rub on both sides of the fish. Lay them on a foil lined baking sheet (for easy clean-up). Drizzle the tops of the fish lightly with just a little canola oil before they go in the preheated oven and roast for about 15-20 minutes or until properly cooked through.


  • Juice of one fresh lime
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 chipotle pepper from can of chipotle in adobo sauce, minced
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 1 14oz package shredded cabbage
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

To make the slaw, whisk together the first 5 ingredients in the bottom of a salad bowl. Add the shredded cabbage and chopped cilantro, season with salt and pepper to taste, and toss together.


  • 2 fresh avocados, sliced
  • Lime wedges
  • 1 package small corn tortillas

Slice the avocados and place on a plate. Squeeze one of the lime wedges over the slices to prevent them from turning brown.

Heat the tortillas according to the package directions. I usually wrap a small stack in damp paper towels, put them on a plate and microwave for 30 seconds. Flip them over and zap for another 30 seconds. In reality, a proper serving should probably be 2 per person, but in our house it’s more like 3-4.

Place everything on the table and let everyone make their own tacos. You could serve  fresh corn and charred pepper sauté as a side dish, and of course, some chips and salsa, too.


May 9, 2012

Smoky Pulled Pork Tacos & Slaw

I lived in Georgia for a few years, back in the mid-90’s. Transferred for work, we packed up all our things and made the long drive down to start what I call, the Southern era of my life. Very different from life in the north, life in Georgia lacked good pizza, the Chinese food was terrible and bagels were a mere shadow of the ones we were used to. Maybe things have changed since then. Yes, I actually do analyze the many ups and downs in my life by the food that I’ve experienced. Dysfunctional? Maybe. But I like to think that the mental diary of meals I keep, stored next to the 80’s song lyrics in my brain, will one day be worth something.

I have many fond food memories from down south. I can recall dinner at this hole-in-the-wall joint known for the best fried chicken and catfish in Georgia. I swore there was a creek that ran through the back of the restaurant, with some guy catching the catfish, only to have them hit the deep-fry seconds after being caught. This was the real deal, and so good.

In Georgia, I ate my first hush puppy, had my first bowl of Brunswick Stew, enjoyed a real buttered biscuit with the grease proudly dripping down my sleeves and fell in love with BBQ. I have never tried smoking meats and my BBQ abilities are limited to my backyard Weber grill. I can’t put a finger on what inspired me to make this pulled pork, but it’s always been one of my favorites (see My Infatuation with the Pig). After a little research, I came up with this recipe. No smoker required. It took under 3 hours and we ate it Mexican style, in warm corn tortillas. For my next trick, I will make this again with Southern BBQ flavors. For now, I consider this a successful mission accomplished. Perfect for a crowd, this makes a lot of pulled pork. I’ll guess it makes tacos for 8, possibly more.


  • 5lb boneless pork shoulder cut into big 3″ hunks
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp chipotle powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 3 tsp Kosher salt
  • Generous amount of fresh ground pepper
  • 2 large onions, quartered
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 – 15oz can chicken stock
  • 1 – 15oz tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup of good beer
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, finely chopped (use more if you want it really spicy)
  • 1 tbsp adobo sauce (from the can of chipotles)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • Juice of 1 large navel orange
  • Juice of 1 fresh lime
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Canola oil

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Mix the oregano, chili powder, chipotle powder, cumin, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Season the pork all over with the rub.

Heat a large dutch oven over medium-high heat and add a little canola oil to the bottom of the pan. Add the pork pieces, working in batches and brown on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Saute the onion till translucent, add the garlic and stir for one minute until fragrant. Add the chicken stock, tomato sauce, beer, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, honey, bay leaves, orange and lime juice, scrapping up any brown bits in the bottom of the pan. Stir in the tomato paste. Bring to a hard simmer and add the pork back to the pan. Spoon the sauce over all the meat. Cover the pot and place in the preheated oven for 2 hours.

After the pork is done, remove the pot from the oven and take the meat out, placing it in a large bowl. Put the pot on the stove on medium-low heat. Simmer the sauce until it reduces slightly. While the sauce is cooking, using 2 forks, shred the pork. Add the pork back to the pot with the sauce and stir together so all the meat is coated.

Serve with warm corn tortillas, cilantro slaw and a squeeze of fresh lime. Leftovers can be served on soft rolls as pulled pork sandwiches too.

Tender pulled pork in 2hrs is a dream. Cooking the meat in large pieces, rather than a whole roast, really quickens the roasting time. I know that true BBQ enthusiasts would poo-poo this recipe, but the reality is most of us don’t have the time to slow roast anything for the hours they suggest. This is a very respectable cheat. 


Adapted from The Neelys

  • 4 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 16oz package pre-shredded cabbage (it usually says cole slaw mix)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • Couple of handfuls shredded carrots (I buy the pre-shredded carrots in a small bag)
  • Kosher salt and pepper

Combine the vinegar, lime juice, canola oil and sugar in a bowl and whisk together. Place the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and pour over the dressing. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with the pulled pork tacos. I think this is best when you let it sit for a while before serving. Make it when the pork goes into the oven and then place it in the refrigerator until it’s time to serve.

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