Cinco de Mayo is just around the corner, and with the weather warming, it’s the perfect time to take out the grill for fish tacos and make yourself a margarita.
On our block, we joke with the neighbors that once the snow falls, we don’t see anybody for five months. People park their cars in the garage in an attempt to keep warm and stay dry and only poke their heads outside to get the mail or shovel the walk. Fortunately, every spring we emerge and get reacquainted with our friends from last fall, usually over a good meal, eaten outside if possible.
Our reintroduction to the neighborhood this year came in the form of weekly neighbor-hosted happy hours and then to head across the street to share a dish with the neighbors. So we packed up the essentials and took our dinner a few houses down to fix up some refreshing fish tacos to remember why we like living where we do.
These are great because the majority of the work can be done ahead of time which makes this a perfect dish for entertaining. They are also a nice way to ring in the spring season with light and fresh flavors of citrus, cilantro, and tilapia with the distinctive zing of a real margarita. Begin by marinating the tilapia fillets in a margarita mixture of tequila, lime juice, agave nectar, a little oil and a bit of salt. Overnight is the best, but anywhere over an hour is a good start.
The topping for this taco is an easy salsa fresca. Chop tomatoes, onions, peppers and cilantro and mix with lime juice, oil and salt. Follow the recipe below or adjust ingredients to suit your tastes. I like to add some fresh jalapeños and cumin, but you can do whatever you want. Why not go loco with pineapple or mango? The only other necessities are shredded lettuce and sour cream, perhaps a bit of cotija or asadero if you can’t have tacos without a dairy fix, and we love to add guacamole to ours.
All that is left is to fire up the grill for a bit and get the fish done and it’s time to eat. Here we want a hot grill somewhere around 450 to 500 degrees. With a thin fish like tilapia, which is what we used, it can get a little tricky on the grill. However, if you cook it hot and fast and properly lubricate your grill, you’ll be fine. Properly lubricate. Did you get that? Properly lubricate. If you don’t you will be eating vegetarian tacos and your next steak will taste like a tuna sandwich. So have a can of spray ready or some olive oil to brush, but please, please, don’t let the fish stick.
Okay, hot grill, check. Clean grill (scrape it now), check. Lubricated grill (in this order), check. Let’s cook. Quickly arrange the fillets, evenly spaced, across the grill. Close the lid and wait about two to three minutes. Gingerly flip and squeeze a lime on them and sprinkle with salt. After another two or three minutes they’ll be done. Remove quickly to a plate and loosely wrap in foil adding a few more drops of lime before you tuck them in.
Did your fish stick a little? It’s okay. The good news with fish tacos is that the fillets will be hidden inside a tortilla so no one will see if they are a little beat up.
Time for assembly. Fill a warmed corn tortilla (why not do it on the grill alongside the fish if you have room) with a few ounces of fish, a spoonful of salsa fresca, a smear of sour cream and top with shredded lettuce. Don’t forget the guacamole if you made it. Fold, eat and repeat.
To really complement the meal, serve with a just-mixed classic margarita. Want to go the other way? Those averse to alcohol can have this recipe too. Just substitute club soda for tequila and add a little extra lime juice and salt.
Make sure you have plenty of tortillas, after having three tacos myself, I really contemplated a fourth. Yes, they’re that good, so celebrate spring, celebrate Cinco de Mayo, or make them for no particular celebration at all. These tacos are a great way to wake up your taste buds for spring and the summer to follow.
1/3 cup tequila
3 limes, juiced
3 tablespoons miel de agave (or agave nectar)
1 1/2 tablespoon avocado oil (or any light oil)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 lime, juiced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large tomato diced
1/2 onion diced (yellow or red)
1/2 large green pepper diced
1 jalapeño, finely chopped
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
1 lime, juiced
kosher salt, to taste
20 white corn tortillas
shredded romaine lettuce
cotija or a white cheese, shredded/crumbled
Mix tequila, lime juice, agave, oil and salt in a zip-top bag. Add fish and refrigerate from one hour to overnight. Grill fish on a hot, oiled grill (450 to 500° F) three minutes per side. Squeeze lime over fish after the first flip and sprinkle with salt. Remove the grilled fish pieces to aluminum foil and wrap to retain heat.
Prepare salsa fresca by combining tomato, onion, pepper, jalapeño, cilantro, lime juice and salt. Refrigerate if it is made ahead of time.
Warm tortillas on the grill or otherwise. Assemble tacos with fish, salsa and other additions of your choice.
Makes 6 servings
This is our neighbor Sara‘s margarita recipe. (Sara is pictured above.) We approve. In fact, I made them again 4 days later to make sure I had the right ratios for this post. Painful process that was. Painful.
1 ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed
1/2 ounce miel de agave (agave nectar)**
1/2 ounce water, club soda or fresh-squeezed orange juice
2 ounces 100% agave silver tequila (Patron, Corazón)
1 lime wedge
salt for rim
In a glass add lime juice, miel de agave, water/club soda and tequila. Run lime wedges over rim of glass and roll edge in salt to rim. Fill glass with ice. Shake margarita mix with ice and strain into the salt-rimmed glass over the ice. Serve with the lime wedge.
**You can substitute miel de agave and the water/club soda/orange juice for 1 full ounce of simple syrup.
**for virgin margaritas, omit tequila and add additional club soda
Makes 1 margarita.