Crazy about Tacos

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Living in Austin, I no longer have to endure extreme cold weather.  Anything below 30 is considered extreme here, and we Austinites begin to curse Mother Nature if it lasts too long.  Sadly, this year, it’s lasted too long and this past month has been brutal with ice and below 30 temps. But even when Mother Nature’s cruel, she does treat us on the occasion with a warm, sunny weekend – giving us a little short burst of sunshine to remind us how wonderful the hot, Austin summers can be.

FishTacoToday was one of those days when Mother Nature gave Austin a little dose of warmth. It’s these days that I want to keep forever. I want to soak up every last bit of it and reminisce about the hot July & August to come.  The best way to bring summer back for the evening is by indulging in a summer classic – tacos.  Living in Austin, I eat a lot of tacos but fish tacos are by far my favorite.

And on a hot Austin evening, nothing taste better than fish tacos.

The only problem is, most fish tacos are fried, smothered with a creamy slaw and served with a side of lard-infested refried beans & white rice colored orange from paprika. Most tacos are then washed down with a heaping glass of frozen margarita.  Some how, this meal in concept seems so healthy because it’s fish, and fish is healthy, right?  Wrong.  It’s only healthy if you cook it properly and because fish tacos are fried and smother in creamy slaw this “healthy” fish taco just became a huge fat and calorie bomb.

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But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Fried fish and mayo-based coleslaw aren’t required for flavorful, crunchy fish tacos.  I have yet to find a classic fish taco here in Austin that meets my health standards. There’s plenty of salmon or ceviche or tuna tacos but these aren’t the traditional fish tacos I’m  looking for.  Unable to find that classic, healthier fish taco, I  created my own, healthified fish taco at home.

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My fish tacos use blackened seasoning for a smoky, spicy flavor and are paired with fresh ingredients like cilantro, lime, & jalapeño. I top them with a zesty chipotle slaw made with greek yogurt in place of mayo and a dollop of avocado creama!

Combined, these ingredients give the tacos a hit of fresh flavor, a ton of crunchy texture, and a touch of spice. Served on corn tortillas and rounded out with more slaw and a smokey, Mexican street corn salad on the side for added veggie power, this meal is perfect on a hot Austin night [or for that rare winter evening when Mother Nature teases us with hopes of summer].

Before reading the recipes, I have to say, it seems like a lot of components for one dinner but the truth is, with Mexican food, a lot of the same ingredients are carried over from one dish to another.  For timing’s sake – it’s best to prep all ingredients first [cilantro, jalapeño, lime, red onion & garlic] then begin making each of the components – beginning with the corn salad & coleslaw as these need at least 30 minutes to sit for their flavors to truly develop.

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Trust me, if you do the prep work ahead of time, assembling the meal afterwards really is a breeze – and well worth the effort!  These tacos can also be made with chicken if you aren’t a fish fanatic! Below’s the recipe I use when making the tacos for <3M [chicken] and I [fish].  There’s always plenty of leftovers the next day too, which go great atop a salad or stuffed again into some more corn tortillas.

 

Mexican Street Corn Salad

  • 2 cups frozen corn, cooked in the microwave, drained & cooled slightly
  • 2 tablespoons light or fat free mayo
  • juice of half a lime
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 small clove of garlic, pressed
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup diced, red onion
  • 1/4 jalapeño, deseeded & finely diced
  • 1/4 cup reduced fat feta (used in place of traditional, Mexican cotija cheese)
  • salt &pepper to taste

In a small bowl, whisk together mayo, lime juice, garlic, cumin & smoked paprika.
In a separate bowl gently combine corn, cilantro, red onion, jalapeño, and feta.
Add mayo-spice mixture to corn and combine, adding salt & pepper to taste.
Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving.

Chipotle Slaw

  • 1 bag traditional coleslaw mix
  • 1/2 cup plain, greek yogurt  (I use 0%)
  • juice of half a lime
  • 1 large clove of garlic, pressed
  • 2  chipotle chiles packed in adobe sauce, finely diced OR 1 1/2 tablespoons chipotle-adobe salsa
  • 1/4 cup diced, red onion
  • 1/4 jalapeño, deseeded & finely diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • salt to taste

In a large bowl, whisk together greek yogurt, lime juice, chipotles, and garlic.
Add in cabbage mix, red onion, jalapeño, and cilantro.
Stir to combine and salt to taste.
Let marinate in refrigerator at least 30 minutes prior to serving so flavors fully develop.

**Note: The slaw may seem a tad dry prior to refrigerating but the salt allows moisture from the cabbage to be drawn out and a creamier texture will develop before serving.

Avocado Crema

  • 1 small avocado
  • 2 tablespoons plain, greek yogurt (I use 0%)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons red onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 1 small clove of garlic, pressed

In a small bowl, mash the avocado with the back of a spoon until creamy. [A cocktail muddler also works well].
Mix yogurt  and lime juice with mashed avocado then stir in remaining ingredients.
Salt to taste.

Fish Tacos 

  • 2 mahi-mahi fillets
  • 1 chicken breast, butterflied & pounded flat
  • 3-4 teaspoons blackened seasoning
  • 4  corn tortillas (6-inch)
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil

After butterflying & slightly flattening out the chicken breast, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of blackened seasoning on each side.
Do the same for the mahi-mahi (about 1/2 teaspoon per side, per fillet, no needed for pound out the fish though!).

Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.  Place the chicken & fish in the pan and cook 2-3 minutes per side.

Once cooked, remove from pan and using two forks, shred the chicken and fish into pieces.

Assembling the Tacos:

Prior to serving, warm tortillas on a dry frying pan or in a microwave with a damp cloth [to keep the tortillas from drying out].  Place the shredded chicken or fish in center of the warm tortillas, top with chipotle slaw and a spoonful of avocado cream.  Serve with additional slaw and Mexican Street Corn salad on the side.

And as for that calorie heavy margarita that pairs so well with tacos, may I suggest Skinny Girl Margarita mix with an extra splash of both tequila & lime!

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