Tag Archives: Salsa

Baja Fish Tacos

27 Feb Baja Fish Tacos

 

Back in my days in the U.S. Marines, when I was stationed in Southern California, I used to take weekend trips with some friends down to Rosarito Beach, Mexico. Among all the wonderful things that Rosarito Beach had to offer, one of my first stops was to this little taco stand across from the hotel we always stayed at. Although I do not remember the name of the place anymore, I certainly do remember the flavors! The fish tacos were unlike any I have ever tasted, fried in a rich batter, served with fresh, handmade, corn tortillas, cabbage, salsa, and a delicious mayonnaise, served with a ice cold Pacifico clara! To me, this was the ultimate weekend getaway!

Baja Fish Tacos

These flavors were all but forgotten until I watched an episode of Rick Bayless’s outstanding series, Mexico: One Plate at A Time. There he was making what sounded like the same fish tacos I had fell in love with all those years ago! I instantly placed a sticky note in my head to test out this recipe and share the recipe with you!

I made a few modifications to his recipe for my tastes, but if you want the exact recipe, you can find it at his website under Classic Ensenada Fish Tacos. I left out the baking powder, as I found that the batter became very “puffy” while frying and I added some lime zest to bring a bit of citrus flavor to the beer batter. You can experiment with different types of beers also, a deep amber beer will give this batter a great nutty flavor, almost any type of beer will work, but I would avoid using a wheat beer, as it tends to alter the consistency of the batter.  You will also find that my salsa is different than his, I am using a classic salsa recipe that I learned from my wife. Finally, I use a chipotle sauce rather than a plain jane mayonnaise based sauce. I just like the smokiness of chipotle with the citrus flavors of the fish. None of these modifications are to say that I know better than Rick Bayless, I just wanted to add a bit of my own flavors to his great recipe!

Baja Fish Tacos

One of the best things about testing out a recipe is getting to eat the finished product. I cracked open a cold bottle of Corona and took a bite of my fish taco. I closed my eyes and was instantly transported back to that little roadside taco stand in Rosarito Beach…

 

 

 Baja Fish Tacos

(Adapted from Rick Bayless’s Ensenada Fish Tacos )

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless fish fillets (I like halibut or cod, but you can use just about anything)
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chicken-flavor powdered bouillon (I use Knorr)
  • 1 cup beer
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Lime zest
  • Salt
  • Vegetable oil to a depth of 1 1/2 inches for frying

Garnishes:

  • ½ head savoy cabbage, thinly sliced
  • Salsa de Chile Arbol (see below)
  • Chipotle Sauce (see below)
  • Lime wedges
  1. Finely mince the garlic, sprinkle generously with salt, then mash back and forth with the side of a knife across a cutting board until it makes a paste.
  2. Put the garlic paste into a medium bowl and add the oregano, black pepper, mustard, bouillon, beer, lime zest and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  3. Add the flour to the wet ingredients and whisk just until combined.
  4. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet or dutch oven to 370 degrees.
  5. Cut the fish into pieces about 3 inches long by 1/2 inch square
  6. Take a piece and dip it completely into the batter, then lay it gently in the oil.Keep going with a few more pieces (4 at a time). Fry, turning regularly, until they are a deep golden brown and crisp, about 4 minutes.
  7. Drain on a paper towel and then place in a warm oven on a wire rack over a sheet pan while the rest of the fish are frying.
  8. Set out with cabbage, salsa, warm corn tortillas, limes and the crispy fish for everyone to make tacos.

    Baja Fish Tacos

 

Salsa de Chile Arbol

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 peel of onion
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, loosely packed
  • 1/2 ounce (15-20) dried arbol chiles
  • 1 roma tomato
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  1. In a small saucepan, bring about 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil.
  2. Remove the stems and caps from the chiles.
  3. In an ungreased skillet over medium heat, toast the chiles, toss constantly to avoid burning, until the chiles fill the kitchen with their toasty aroma, about 1 1/2 minutes.
  4. Once the chiles are toasted, put them in the boiling water with the tomato and boil for about 5 minutes.
  5. Drain well and place in a blender or a food processor with the garlic,onion, and cilantro. Pulse until nearly smooth.
  6. Add the salt.

    Chile de Arbol

    Chile de Arbol

 

Chipotle Sauce

  • 1/3 cup Chipotle Mayo
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup milk
  1. Whisk all ingredients together until you make a smooth sauce.

 

Chipotle Mayonaise

  • ¼ cup grapeseed oil
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ tablespoon water
  • ½  tablespoon chipotle chile powder
  • 1/8 of a teaspoon salt
  1. Using an immersion blender in a deep cup (I use a Pyrex 4 cup measuring cup), blend the yolk, liquid, chile powder, and salt.
  2. While still blending, start incorporating  the oil mixture a bit at a time (What I do is put the oil in a squeeze bottle).
  3. Once all the oil is incorporated, you will have a nice, thick, mayo.

    Baja Fish Tacos

    Baja Fish Tacos

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Barbacoa DelGrosso

15 Nov Tacos de Barbacoa

 

In Mexico, food is so much more than simply cooking and eating. It is the customs,the tradition, the story behind the food itself that makes it so wonderful. One of my very first, and finest, food memories of Mexico City was walking down to the market on the corner of my wife’s street on Sunday morning and buying barbacoa. In this street market, only on Sundays, there is Señora Maria, who brings her fresh barbacoa to market from Hidalgo, a state outside of the Distrito.

The preparation and the cooking of barbacoa is a story unto itself (but diabolically easy!). It is essentially just roasted lamb, but it is so much more than that! It is a whole lamb marinated in a chile paste, then wrapped in the leaves of a native cactus, the maguey. It is then placed in an earthen pit, and roasted in the ground for more than 8 hours. The result is some of the most tender and flavorful lamb you will ever eat! Legend has it that the best barbacoa in all of Mexico can be found alongside a Mexican Highway between Mexico City and Querétaro, at little place called Barbacoa Santiago.  However, I wanted Barbacoa now!

Back in New England, there is no maguey cactus, my recipe uses banana leaves in its place. This is a more “Mayan” version of barbacoa, KAB BAALBAK (KAB “Earth”, BAAL “cover”, and BAK “meat”). On Saturday night I prepared the chili paste to marinate the meat. First, I toasted 4 chile ancho and 4 chile guajillo on my comal until they were beginning to become aromatic and darken just a bit.  I then soaked them in hot water for 15 to 20 minutes or until they become soft.  It is important to tell you to not burn the chiles as they will become very bitter if they are burnt.

The Chiles

The Chiles

While they were soaking, I went and put my cumin seeds, black peppercorns, thyme, oregano, and salt into my spice grinder. I ground them up into a fine powder and then put them in a blender.  I also added 5 cloves of garlic, an onion, some olive oil, and apple cider vinegar.  Finally, I stemmed, deveined, and seeded the chiles and then placed them in the blender with all of the other ingredients. I puréed them into a smooth, yet relatively thick paste. I then rubbed the paste all over the leg of lamb, put it into a container, covered it, and placed it in the refrigerator for the night.

On Sunday, I took some banana leaves, cut off the hard stem side of the leaves, placed about 4 leaves on my countertop with the curves all running the same direction and slightly overlapping.

Leg of Lamb - Ready to be Wrapped

Leg of Lamb - Ready to be Wrapped

I placed the leg of lamb directly in the center and rolled the package up all nice like a burrito. I placed the delicious package in a roasting pan and covered with foil.  The package was then put it in a 325 degree oven for about 3 hours.

While the lamb was roasting in the oven, I set to preparing my chipotle salsa and a delicious cilantro-lime tzazikie that I love. With the chipotle salsa, I took 4 or 5 dried chile chipotle mora, removed the stem and boiled them in water with 2 Roma tomatoes. Once the pot comes to a boil, allow them to boil for about 5 more minutes, or until the chiles are nice and soft. Then place the chiles, tomato, 1 clove of garlic and a few slices of onion in a blender and purée . If the salsa is too thick, add a little of the water you boiled the chiles and tomatoes in about ½ tablespoon at a time until you get the desired consistency. Pour it into a serving bowl, add a pinch of salt, and it is ready to serve!

The cilantro-lime tzatziki is just as easy. Take 1 medium cucumber, peel it, remove the seeds with a spoon and roughly chop. Put the cucumber in a food processor with the juice of 1 lime, 1 clove of garlic, about ¼ cup of fresh cilantro, and a pinch of salt. Pulse it smooth, put into a mixing bowl, and fold in about 1 cup of plain greek yogurt (my favorite is Chobani).  Now I know what you are all saying, what does a greek sauce have to do with Mexican Barbacoa? My answer is NOTHING AT ALL, but this cilantro-lime tzatziki is simply one of the most delicious sauces I have ever had!

After about 3 hours, I removed the lamb from the oven and placed it on the serving platter, still wrapped in its banana cocoon, to allow the meat to rest. While the meat rested, I diced up some onion and more fresh cilantro and mixed them all up together in another serving bowl. Finally, I prepared my masa for the fresh corn tortillas, pressed them out, and cooked them on my comal.  

So now that everything is ready, take the lamb and make a nice cut along the center of the package to open it, carve the lamb and serve with your salsas and your fresh corn tortillas. Orale!

The Barbacoa

Barbacoa DelGrosso

There were a few things learned that I would apply in the next preparation. The first is that I would probably try to cook the lamb for another hour to see if I can bring more tenderness to the meat. Although the meat was tender, I wanted it to be so tender that I could essentially “pull” the meat apart with a fork.  I think I am going to do a little more research to see if I can procure a better cut of lamb.

But this story does end with the addition of another legendary food destination alongside a roadway, The DelGrosso kitchen, home of the finest Barbacoa in New England!

Tacos de Barbacoa

Tacos de Barbacoa

Barbacoa

  • 5 Cloves of Garlic
  • 1 large white onion
  • 4 Ancho Chiles
  • 4 Guajillo Chiles
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 4 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1/3 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3-5 pound leg of lamb
  • 4 banana leaves, stem removed
  1. Toast Chiles until smoky and aromatic, DO NOT BURN, then soak them in hot water for 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. In a spice grinder, grind up the cumin seeds, black peppercorns, thyme, oregano, and kosher salt.
  3. Remove the chiles for the water, stem, devein, and remove the seeds from the chiles and place them in a blender with the ground spices, garlic, onion, and olive oil.
  4. Puree the mixture until it is smooth, then remove from the blender and rub all over the lamb.
  5. Place the lamb in a container, covered, in a refrigerator overnight or at least 4 hours.
  6. Preheat your oven to 325F.
  7. Take 4 banana leaves, place lengthwise on a counter of cutting board, overlap them slightly with the curves going in the same direction.  
  8. Place the lamb in the center of the leaves, fold up the ends, then start folding over the lamb, rolling like a wrap or a burrito, place the flap along the underside of the “package” or cut a few strings of banana leaf and use the strings to tie it all up.
  9. Place the “package” on the roasting tray in your roasting pan and place in the oven for at least 3 hours, preferably for 4.
  10. Let the meat rest for at least 10 minutes inside the banana leaves.
  11. Then cut along the center of the package.
  12. Serve still in the banana leaves with lime, onions and cilantro, a chipotle salsa, and fresh corn tortillas!

Salsa Chipotle

 

  • 4 dried chile chipotles mora
  • 2 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 3 slices of white onion
  • kosher salt (al gusto)
  1. Place the chipotles and tomato in a saucepan and boil in water. Boil for 5 minutes, or until chipotles become soft.
  2. Place in a blender with the garlic, onion, and salt. Puree until smooth.
  3. If salsa is not the desired consistency, add some of the reserved water used to boil the chipotles about 1 teaspoon at a time.
  4. Add salt to taste.

Cilantro-Lime Tzatziki

  • 1 medium cucumber
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ¼ cup cilantro, loosely packed
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Kosher salt (al gusto)
  • 1 Cup Green Plain Yogurt
  1. Peel, seed, and chop the cucumber and place in a food processor with the garlic, cilantro, lime juice, and salt.
  2. Pulse until smooth, then fold in the yogurt.