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Yucatecan Grilled Fish Tacos

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Serves 4 to 6

  • To learn more, read:
    How to Make Fish Tacos
  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 130

These bright, spicy tacos get their authentic flavor from a mixture of orange and lime juices (to replicate the bitter oranges grown in the Yucatán) and herbs and spices like Mexican oregano and annatto.

For the salsa
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice (2 medium oranges)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (2 medium limes)
  • 1 small red onion, quartered lengthwise and very thinly sliced crosswise (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 habanero chile, seeded and minced (about 1-1/2 tsp.)
  • 1-1/2 tsp. dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 ripe mango, cut into medium dice (about 1 cup)
For the fish
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 20 black peppercorns (1/4 tsp.)
  • 4 allspice berries
  • 4 tsp. annatto seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. dried Mexican oregano
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 Tbs. fresh orange juice
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil; more as needed
  • 1-1/2 lb. mahimahi fillets or swordfish steaks (about 1 inch thick)
For assembly
  • Vegetable oil for the grill
  • 12 6-inch corn tortillas
  • 2 ripe avocados, thinly sliced
Make the salsa

Combine the orange and lime juices, onion, chile, oregano, and salt in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate until the onion begins to turn pink, about 2 hours. Stir in the mango.

Marinate the fish

Heat an 8-inch skillet over medium-low heat. Toast the cumin seeds, peppercorns, and allspice berries in the skillet, shaking occasionally, until fragrant and the cumin seeds are a shade darker, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder or mortar. Add the annatto seeds, oregano, and cayenne and grind to a powder. Transfer to a small bowl.

Mash the garlic with 1/2 tsp. salt into a paste with a mortar and pestle or the side of a chef's knife. Add to the spices along with the orange and lime juices and olive oil. Stir until well combined. Rub the marinade all over the fish. Transfer to a plate and refrigerate, covered, for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.

Assemble the tacos

Prepare a medium (350°F to 375°F) gas or charcoal grill fire for direct grilling. Oil the grill grate. Working in batches, heat the tortillas in a single layer, turning once, until soft with light grill marks. Stack in a cloth-lined basket or plate and wrap to keep warm.

Brush both sides of the fish with olive oil and lightly season with salt. Grill, turning once or twice until just cooked through (the tip of a knife inserted into the center should be warm when you touch it against your lip), 8 to 12 minutes total.

Transfer the fish to a cutting board. Coarsely shred the fish with two forks. Distribute among the tortillas, and use a slotted spoon to top each with salsa. Garnish with the avocado slices and serve.

Make Ahead Tips

The salsa will keep, refrigerated, for 1 day. Bring to room temperature before serving.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 440; Fat (g): fat g 17; Fat Calories (kcal): 150; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 2.5; Protein (g): protein g 26; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 10; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 49; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 3; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 460; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 85; Fiber (g): fiber g 9;

Photo: Scott Phillips

Delicious and different way to eat swordfish. The corn tortilla brought all the flavors together. I had trouble finding annato seeds at my local grocery stores, but luckily I live near a Penzsey's store. Mexican oregano can be found at Whole Foods. Definitely use the slotted spoon on the salsa so you get the flavor but not the runoff in your taco.

Well overall this was really good. A few comments, the salsa was too runny so next time I would put 1/2 of the liquid noted on recipe. Also I put in the whole habanero chile and it was just about the right heat so don't hold back on that one. Surprisingly my grocery store had ground annatto, by Mc Cormick no less, so I used that. I also used ground cumin and regular oregano, I thought it still came out very flavorful overall. I also used swordfish steaks and cooked them on an iron grill on my stove top. So don't be afraid if you don't have all the ingredients exact, I thought it was worth making.

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