Fish Tacos

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A few weeks ago, I had Sunday dinner at my friend Maitland’s house.  She and the five other girls I ate with do these dinners pretty regularly, but this was the first time I cooked with them.  We decided to make fish tacos – something I had never made for myself before.  They found all of the recipes and I just helped with the prepping and cooking.  My main responsibility was the guacamole.  This was easy for me because I love guacamole.  It is so simple to make, and it is so much better fresh than store-bought.  I basically just combine all of the ingredients and keep adding and tasting until I achieve the right balance.

The tacos were amazing.  It was the first warm-ish day that we had had in DC, and these tacos tasted like summer.  I could have eaten eight of them if I hadn’t been careful.  All of the components were simple, and the combined result was delicious – the black bean mango salsa added just the right amount of sweetness; the cabbage slaw gave it a nice texture; the blackened seasoning on the fish was perfect (I loved the complexity that the brown sugar added – almost gave it a barbecue flavoring).  I am sure I will be using these recipes again in the future.

Note:  The recipes below might need to be fiddled with to yield the right amounts.   I am assuming that they each make about 4-6 servings.

Fish Tacos

  • Corn Tortillas
  • Blackened Tilapia (recipe below)
  • Black Bean and Mango Salsa (recipe below)
  • Cabbage Slaw (recipe below)
  • Guacamole (recipe below)
  • Additional toppings – Salsa/Pico/Fresh Tomatoes, Sour Cream, Queso Fresco, Fresh Cilantro

Wrap ingredients in tortilla and enjoy!

Blackened Tilapia (from Cooking Light)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 4 (6-ounce) tilapia fillets
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

Combine paprika and next 6 ingredients (through ground red pepper); sprinkle evenly over fish. Heat oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Enough fish for 8 tacos.

Black Bean and Mango Salsa (adapted from the Food Network)

  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 mango, finely diced (could substitute pineapple and it would be good, too)
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1 cup freshly chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon lime zest
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 4 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 orange, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the beans into a large bowl and add the diced mango, red onion, cilantro, lime zest, orange zest and juices and drizzle with the oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Lightly toss, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Red Cabbage Slaw (from Food Network)

  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/4 head red cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1 large carrot, cut into fine julienne
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • Salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Guacamole (I usually just wing it, so these measurements might be a little off.  Honestly, just add a little more of each ingredient until you find the right balance.  Lime and salt are key)

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1/2 red onion, minced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro (leaves and tender stems), finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon of fresh lime
  • 1/2 ripe tomato, seeds and pulp removed, chopped (optional)
  • Salt to taste

Slice avocados into quarters.  Mix all ingredients together in bowl.

How to Cook the Perfect Turkey

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In addition to eating soup on Christmas Eve, my family has a tradition of roasting a turkey for Christmas dinner.  We have had a turkey (or a cousin of a turkey) almost every year since my great-grandmother passed a little over 10 years ago, one of my favorites being the year when my aunt forgot to defrost the turkey and had to run out hours before the whole family came over in a desperate attempt to secure a defrosted bird.  She struck out at most places, and finally got to Royal Farms (a Baltimore convenience store known for their fried and grilled chicken) in the hopes of finding at least a chicken, if not a turkey.  When she got there, they only had prepared chicken and some raw chickens in the back to be cooked for customers.  When they refused to give her a raw chicken citing health laws, my aunt pleaded, saying: “what would Jesus do?”  Needless to say, they gave her the raw chicken with just enough time for her to cook it before the entire family arrived.  A true Christmas miracle.

Anyway, this year we had the turkey defrosted well before roasting-time.  As I’m sure you can tell from my previous Christmas posts, my mom was the head chef this Christmas and I, her sous-chef.  She planned the menu and I helped execute.  I had the job of reaching into the bird’s cavity and pulling the giblets out.  Having never had my hand up a turkey’s rear end before, this was a novel experience.

We stuffed the raw bird with salt, pepper, red onion, lemon, thyme and garlic, and slathered it with butter.  Then we draped a cheese cloth soaked in white wine and butter over the breast – a technique my mom came across that was supposed to increase the tenderness and flavor of the finished product (thanks Martha Stewart!!).  This had the effect we had hoped for – the breast was so juicy and flavorful.

The Perfect Roast Turkey (recipe adapted from The Barefoot Contessa and Martha Stewart)

  • 1 fresh turkey (10 to 12 pounds)
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 large bunch fresh thyme + 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 whole lemon, halved
  • 1 red onion, quartered
  • 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
  • cheesecloth, folded in half to cover turkey breast

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Place rack on lowest level.

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Melt the butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave.  Add the juice of one lemon, 1 teaspoon of thyme leaves and the white wine to the butter mixture.  Fold a large cheesecloth in half.  Cut to cover turkey breast.  Immerse cheesecloth in butter and wine mixture; let soak.

Remove giblets from the turkey; wash the turkey inside and out with cool water and pat dry with paper towels.  Place the turkey in a large roasting pan.  If turkey comes with a pop-up timer, remove it; an instant-read thermometer is a much more accurate indication of doneness. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the turkey cavity.  Stuff the cavity with bunch of thyme, halved lemon, quartered onion, and the garlic.  Brush the outside of the turkey with butter and wine mixture and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Tie the legs together with string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the turkey.

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Lift cheesecloth out of liquid and squeeze it slightly, leaving it very damp. Spread it evenly over the breast and about halfway down the sides of the turkey; it can cover some of the leg area.  Place turkey in the oven.  Cook for 30 minutes. Using a pastry brush or baster, baste cheesecloth and exposed parts of turkey with leftover butter and wine mixture.  Continue cooking turkey and basting every 30 minutes.  After an hour and a half to two hours, carefully remove and discard cheesecloth.  Baste turkey with pan juices. If there are not enough juices, continue to use butter and wine. The skin gets fragile as it browns, so baste carefully.  Cook 30-45 more minutes, or until a instant-read thermometer registers 160 – 180 degrees when inserted into thigh (avoid poking into bone) and the turkey is golden-brown.

Daddy and Turkey

When fully cooked, remove the turkey to a cutting board and cover with aluminum foil; let rest 20 – 30 minutes.  Slice the turkey and serve.

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The aftermath:DSC_1913