The Glory Of The Most Decadently Simple Taco
Last weekend I hosted MASA’s first of many “Fiesta del fin del mes”, basically a poor man’s evening for all those that have a little hurt on the wallet at the end of the month, aka, everybody in Buenos Aires. I offer my insincerest apologies for the shameless plug, but come on, $50 PESOS for a taco plate. To quote the great Flavor Flav, Woooooowwwwwwwww.
I am a firm believer that just because my wallet’s a little thin (or maybe I’m just super tacaño, it varies by month) does not mean that I have to eat rice and eggs. It’s actually a nice challenge, or at least that’s what my stubborn ass tells myself, to make the most extravagant looking meal for the cheapest possible price tag. You better believe that I didn’t hesitate for a second to throw some freshly sliced peach all over the fish tacos. Earlier in the day I had passed a veggie stand, saw some fresh looking ones and may have caught myself in my tracks wiggling like a wet dog for a second out of sheer excitement. When the vegetable lady saw me come in she exclaimed, “sí joven, están,” because I have asked her nearly every day since it officially became spring when some fresh fruits, los duraznos especificamente, would finally arrive and take me out of my pear and apple purgatory.
I was caught off guard when one of our diners came into the kitchen to ask me what I was thinking putting peaches on a “poor person’s taco”, to which I replied, just cause we’re broke doesn’t mean we’re boring. And that’s exactly what this taco is all about, letting your broke self eat like the king or queen that you are. The fish is deceptively dapper, because in actuality it’s about the same price as the cheapest cut of beef, even more so if you don’t mind hiking it to Barrio Chino for that kilo of merluza instead of giving in and going to the Coto around the way.
To make about a dozen generous fish tacos you will need the following:
- 1 kilo of merluza
- 2 peaches
- 2 avocados
Optional cream sauce: one cup of natural yogurt, 1/3 cup mayonnaise, 2/3 cup milk, a few squirts of lemon juice, paprika, cumin and oregano to taste
The objective of this taco was two-fold: it needed to be cheap, and it had to be simple and quick. Hence the reason for choosing to lightly pan fry rather than batter and deep fry, which is more costly (you need extra beer, flour and a lot of oil). This is something I can whip up quickly for 12 people at a dinner but can also make and scarf down for lunch in under twenty minutes.
If you’ve ever pan fried fish you are probably aware of a slew of expletives. When executed to perfection you get that wonderful crispy brown flake on the outside. But more often than not the fish sticks to the bottom of the pan and you are left flipping everything around until you have what looks more like an unappetizing fish stir fry. The trick is heat. First, let your fish sit out at room temperature for about 15 to 20 minutes. Make sure that if it’s not dry already that you pat it with some paper towels.
Second, heat up your pan. I use a heavy grill over the stove top, in general, a heavy pan is recommended over a thin one. Heat up your pan and do not add the oil until the pan is very hot, you can check the heat by flicking a droplet of water on the pan, if it quickly sizzles it’s ready. Add the oil (it should just coat the pan, this isn’t a deep fry), and throw on the fish immediately, cooking for about 6 minutes over high heat. Fight everything within you that wants to play around with the fish and leave it undisturbed. This is a good rule of thumb for all grilling, the perfect grilled meat, whether it be pork, beef or fish, is best when only flipped once. Reduce heat to medium, flip over and cook for another 4 minutes. You can add some additional oil when you flip if your pan is looking a little dry.
Slice up the avocado and peach while you are waiting, warm up your tortillas and bask in the glory of the most decadently simple taco of your life together.