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.
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)
- 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)
- 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