I moved into new digs more northwest in the borough of Queens that feeds me oh, so well. I expect my cooking to bend towards whatever Russian fun I can find. But till then, I went with what I know and made the best fish tacos ever from scratch. Short of pounding my own tortillas and impregnating the fish’s mother, this is all by hand, right down to a special batch of Russian salad dressing (a nod to my new neighborhood, though I also used guacamole for half of these).
I also bought myself a fine mortar and pestle as a housewarming gift, because I’m the only one who welcomes me to any area. I crushed up some herbs and spices into a paste for these tilapia fillets, then let the thing soak while I made another powder batch for the guacamole.
The Russian dressing was easy — just relish, mayo, ketchup. Being unable to leave well enough alone, as usual, I added a little bit of mustard and hot sauce, which turned out very well.
So there’s that. I also chopped up the tomatoes, onions, and red pepper the day before so the diced veggies could perfumate each other in the fridge. All that was left to do was slice strips of red cabbage while the fish seared in a pan with just enough butter to grease the bottom. I then turned it down to low and covered it. Over to the left, I had some tortillas stacked in a pan, and I half-covered those. It’ll soften them nicely so they bend without cracking, and at the same time sear the side touching the pan for structual support.
Knowing how your tortillas work is key. They’re like plastic bags: you have to double-layer them or they’re no good. Why nobody makes thicker tortillas or double-weave plastic bags to skip the nesting, I don’t know. But here’s what I do: put some guacamole or Russian dressing between the tortillas (or if making regular land-dwelling tacos, put cheese there). It’s a way to help keep everything together without making so much mess. You still get the flavor but it’s not oozing out of what’s already a messy meal.
In goes the fish. Down pours the mortar-made ahi. Then the raw onions and tomatoes. Then sprinkled cilanto. Then the shredded cabbage. Pour yourself some tarragon-vanilla Russian soda the color of the finest emeralds, and brother, you’ve got yourself a meal. Eat while watching Breaking Bad.