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Fish Tacos with Mango-Tomatillo Salsa and Homemade Corn Tortillas

May 10, 2011

If you think you’re suffering from a mild case of Cinco de Mayo déjà vu, fear not.  This post comes a few days late but I had a good reason.  My husband returned from a week-long Nevada desert camping trip on the morning of the 5th.  I had planned to prepare a Mexican-themed feast in time for his (and a friend’s) anticipated late afternoon return but I was surprised to see them  pull into the driveway at 8 am.  They had driven most of the night, hoping to break up an 8-hour drive with a night’s rest and also to get our friend back home in time for an appointment, but they somehow decided to skip the “rest” part.  Two sleep-starved zombies met me at the door but I was happy see my husband after a week’s absence.  Rather than spend the day running around checking off grocery list items, we spent the time catching up instead.

Truth be told, Mexican food is everyday fare for us.  Ask any California resident–most will have a favorite taco or burrito spot and I don’t mean Taco Bell (no offense).  It is one of the mainstays of California cuisine.  I’m lucky to live only a mile away from one of my trio of favorite Mexican restaurants.  All owned by the same family, the other two are conveniently situated in the peninsula and Pescadero.  I work in the peninsula and my husband and I spend quite a bit of time in the small coastal town (will post about Pescadero soon), so I’m never far from a good carnitas burrito.

At home, though, I serve fish tacos most often, a family favorite.  But in the spirit of trying new things, I picked up a tortilla press to try my hand at making homemade corn tortillas.  I have heard how much better they are but frankly, I was dubious about the claim.  I have always used locally made tortillas (according to the package) made from organic white corn.  How much could you improve on that?

I’m not too proud to admit that I had a foot-in-mouth moment soon after I lifted the first tortilla out of my cast iron skillet (yields best results in lieu of a comal, a flat griddle used to cook tortillas).  Homemade corn tortillas are superior to store-bought.  Bar none.  The hot tortillas smell like corn coming off the griddle, they’re slightly coarse, beautiful in their rustic shape but their taste was most noteworthy.

Homemade corn tortillas taste like, well, corn.  Fresh corn.  Freshly made, corn tortillas are a far cry from their often drier store-bought counterparts and best of all, there are no mystery ingredients.  Just masa harina (corn flour, not to be confused with corn meal), water and salt. And lest you think I’ve turned into a tortilla snob, all I mean to say is that I now understand others’ claims that homemade tortillas are better.  They truly are but I’m not necessarily divorcing the store-bought kind.  However, they are easy to make (fun, too) and make wonderful baked tortilla chips.

The next item on the to-try list was homemade salsa.  It’s a bit embarrassing to admit that I’ve never made my own before, but when you have a steady supply of excellent salsa from your parents and two sisters, why bother?
What prompted this attempt was my inability to resist the beautiful mangoes and tomatillos at the market.  I made a sample batch but it didn’t last long, especially since we had freshly baked tortilla chips at our disposal.  Traditional salsa accompaniments joined the mango and tomatillos–onion, peppers, cilantro, lime, garlic and salt–so simple but the fresh flavors were truly rewarding.  I didn’t even bother to roast the tomatillos…next time.
We did manage to save some tortillas and salsa for the fish tacos.  I used mahi-mahi and marinated them in my standby mix of cumin, chili powder, garlic, sumac, lime and salt for a very flavorful, albeit late, Cinco de Mayo celebration. This meal is a fiesta for your taste buds.

Fish Tacos with Mango-Tomatillo Salsa and Homemade Corn Tortillas

  • 1 – 1 1/4 pounds fish, cut into small pieces (I used mahi mahi)
  • Olive oil
  • Freshly squeezed lime juice, about 1 lime
  • 2 parts sumac to one part each ground cumin and chili powder (The sumac adds a citrus flavor w/ having to add too much lime juice which would “cook” the fish)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Crushed red pepper, to taste
  • For additional taco fillings: sliced avocado, chopped lettuce, cheese (I used pepper jack), salsa (recipe below), beans (I use fat-free refried pinto or black beans)
  • Corn tortillas (store-bought or homemade recipe below)
For the Salsa:
  • 4 -5 tomatillos, chopped
  • 2 mangos, chopped
  • 1/2 – 1 small onion, chopped
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped (as much or as little as you like)
  • 2 serrano peppers, chopped (Control the heat by the amount of seeds you include in the salsa)
  • Juice of about 2 limes
  • Salt, to taste
  • Fresh garlic, minced or granulated garlic (a couple of teaspoons)
For the Corn Tortillas
  • 2 cups Maseca masa harina (will make 16 5-inch corn tortillas)
  • 1 1/4 cups water (I prefer a bit more water)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Marinate the fish in a bit of oil, lime juice, sumac, chili powder, cumin, crushed red pepper, garlic and salt for at least a half hour to one hour.  Prepare the salsa in the meantime.
To prepare the salsa, chop the mangoes, tomatillos, onions, serranos and cilantro finely and combine. Season with lime juice, garlic and salt, to taste. I like a bit more lime flavor in mine.  I also pulsed about 1/3 of the salsa in my food processor, leaving most of it chunky.
If you decide to make your own tortillas, in a large bowl, combine the masa harina with water and salt.  Use the instructions on the package as a guide but I found that a bit more water yielded better results.  My tortillas cracked as I pressed them without the additional water.  You can add 1 tablespoon at a time or just wet your hands with water before you roll the mixture in balls. This worked fine for me.
After you’ve rolled the dough in balls, line the tortilla press with plastic wrap (parchment paper didn’t work well), top and bottom, then press down using the lever.  You should have a 5-6 inch round tortilla when done.  Cook in an un-oiled cast iron skillet that’s been preheated to medium-high.  About 1 minute per side should work.
Cook the fish in the same skillet in a bit of olive oil for about one to two minutes on each side and assemble your tacos with desired fixings.  Enjoy!
39 Comments leave one →
  1. May 10, 2011 12:22 PM

    These tacos are beyond mouthwatering. I must re-celebrate Cinco de Mayo over and over again with these beauties.

  2. May 10, 2011 1:06 PM

    These are gorgeous and I bet delicioso! I have never attempted to prepare Mexican food at home since my two sisters-in-law take care of that department. Annapet is usually the busgirl in their kitchens, LOL. I shall surprise them one of these days! Thanks for sharing, Jean!

    • May 14, 2011 9:17 AM

      Annapet, my sisters are both much better preparing Mexican food than I am and when we were younger, I was the busgirl, too. Now at least I can contribute with these tortillas. 🙂

  3. May 10, 2011 1:13 PM

    This meal is fit for a king (or a queen) in my book! Love mexican and tex-mex and when the tortillas are homemade and the salsa has these fabulous ingredients, I celebrate! Photos are top as well.

  4. May 10, 2011 1:50 PM

    Absolutley stunning! I’m afraid I would finish before it makes it on the tacos.

  5. May 10, 2011 2:50 PM

    This salsa proves you have a knack for it! GREG

  6. May 10, 2011 6:02 PM

    I do miss really, really good tacos as I’ve yet to find a Mexican restaurant that serves them well here. Anticipating such difficulties, I had considered bringing a tortilla press to Manila but then realized that I may not be able to find masa harina (unless I brought bags of those, too!) I much prefer corn tortilla over the flour kind and looking at this marvelous meal confirms it! 😎

    • May 14, 2011 9:20 AM

      Tracey, good point. I also wonder if you can get masa harina there. Corn tortillas are so much better, I think.

      Thanks for dropping by! 🙂

  7. May 10, 2011 8:08 PM

    I am so impressed that you made your own tortillas – they look amazing! In fact, the entire taco is completely mouthwatering. I bet hubby happily enjoyed these. I just wish I had one right now to eat. Jean – great photos!!! 🙂

  8. May 10, 2011 8:09 PM

    Ok I love everything about these! I love that you made your own tortillas…that is so cool!

  9. May 10, 2011 8:16 PM

    This was quite the project Jean but so worth it for these flavorful results!
    I made mango salsa tonight, it’s so quick and adds so much to the meal.
    I’ve never made fish tacos at home so your post is most inspirational to me.
    I’m also intrigued by your homemade tortillas, we love corn so I know we would like them. I think this will be a fun cooking project for me in the near future;-)

    • May 14, 2011 9:21 AM

      Patty, making the tortillas really is fun. It looks impressive for the little effort that goes into making them. I’m sold on homemade. I hope you try it soon, too. 🙂

  10. May 10, 2011 8:20 PM

    Jean, this is gorgeous. Made flat tortillas like Indian breads but never made fish tacos. Your tomatillos salsa looks amazing. I am really excited to make this soon to change up our menu and surprise the guys!!

    • May 14, 2011 9:23 AM

      Shulie, I highly recommend! The tortillas would be a breeze compared to the other breads you already make. And the fish tacos are so easy! 🙂

  11. May 10, 2011 8:29 PM

    I love to eat fish tacos. I have always wanted to make them and am so excited you have shared your recipe. Thanks!

  12. May 10, 2011 10:29 PM

    My husband is a big fan of Mexican food and he will surely envy the wealth of Mexican eateries you have over there! Fish tacos is also something we make at home, but never homemade tortillas yet…Yours look gorgeous and so appetizing!

  13. May 11, 2011 2:17 AM

    Wow homemade corn tortillas! I’m sure they are much much better when you make them at home. I enjoy looking at your food photography. I’m envious you have both skills in cooking and photography! Your pictures are always over the top!

  14. May 11, 2011 2:50 AM

    Haven’t had tacos since last in California, xxx years ago! You’re making me want to return with these. What a great idea to forget the groceries and just catch up. That’s what we all need, now and again. Precious times!

  15. May 11, 2011 2:59 AM

    Yeah, I definitely do not have a problem re-celebrating Cinco de Mayo with these babies! They look so mouthwatering! =)

  16. May 11, 2011 3:07 AM

    I never realise that tortillas were made with only 3 ingredients (although my excuse is I don’t have a tortilla press!). I would eb delighted with this meal had I come back from a week of desert camping. I’m sure the other half was impressed 🙂

    • May 14, 2011 9:26 AM

      Sukaina, I actually found some alternatives to the tortilla press. I saw one post where the cook used a heavy book to press the tortilla flat. No excuses! 🙂

  17. May 11, 2011 5:47 AM

    I have a theory that pretty much everything tastes better when home made. Your tacos looks delicious, thanks for sharing 🙂

  18. Grace Dickinson permalink
    May 11, 2011 8:12 AM

    These tacos sound incredible. And I agree, everything tastes better with homemade salsa!

  19. May 11, 2011 1:38 PM

    You have it all here! And besides, who needs Cinco de Mayo to eat Mexican? We chow it down all year. Your tomatillo salsa is gorgeous. Wish I was looking forward to this for dinner tonight!
    I’m only going to add one more ingredient when I try this: some dry roasted, fresh ground cumin seed.

  20. cassidy permalink
    May 11, 2011 1:39 PM

    These tacos look fantastic! If you’re into tacos, take a look at this great recipe

    http://fourgreensteps.com/community/recipes/courses/portobello-tacos-with-salsa-verde

  21. May 11, 2011 9:07 PM

    Um, yum. Makes me wish I hadn’t left my tortilla press back in Dallas. Now I’m in New York—the land of no truly good Mexican food—but I can still admire everyone else’s. 😉

  22. May 11, 2011 11:46 PM

    Your salsa looks wonderful!

  23. May 12, 2011 6:44 AM

    You have made some gorgeous tacos! Salsa looks great too.

  24. May 12, 2011 8:49 AM

    These look wonderful! I have a recipe that I have wanted to try for homemade tortillas, but have been kind of nervous. Guess I should try it soon! Thanks!

  25. May 12, 2011 8:53 AM

    I think I need to track down a tortilla press after reading your praises of homemade tortillas! The Boy will probably complain if I come home with yet another kitchen gadget… but he does love tacos, so I’m sure I could sway him with a batch of freshly made tortillas. 🙂
    Love the fact that you’ve made these with grilled fish, BTW. The fish tacos I had in the Mayan Riviera were filled with fried breaded fish… very delicious, of course, but I much prefer grilled fish when I have a choice.

  26. May 12, 2011 5:37 PM

    WOW – I have never seen tacos look this gorgeous. And I have a hunch they are super delicious. Love them.

  27. May 12, 2011 8:22 PM

    I usually dislike corn tortillas…but all the tortillas I’ve tried are month-old store-bought. I probably will change my mind if I got to try homemade fresh ones!

  28. mairi29 permalink
    May 13, 2011 9:40 PM

    Love tomatillos….going to try & grow the again. And their tart fruitiness with the mango sounds heavenly. And admire that you make your own tortillas.

  29. May 15, 2011 12:59 PM

    Great, mouthwatering recipe! I especially love the combination of flavors here — very fresh looking and perfect for this time of year 🙂

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