Until I went to Mexico, I thought tacos were the kind I encountered growing up in California—crisp folded tortillas partially filled with ground beef and cheese. I’ve since discovered that tacos come in many forms and are only rarely stuffed with ground beef and cheese.
In Mexico, tacos are made by stuffing various ingredients such as stews, grilled meats (usually pork), and seafood into soft steamed tortillas. More often than not a variety of ingredients are passed around the table for guests to help themselves and design their own variations. Tacos are also fried—the raw’ tortillas are sautéed for a few’ seconds in hot oil, the taco is stuffed and rolled, and the whole thing is then deep-fried. My own preference is for the soft variety, partly because of the casualness of people making their own tacos, partly because they’re less rich.
These salmon tacos are an obvious derivative of more traditional recipes, but the spirit of improvisation is authentic.
Cut the salmon fillet into 3 pieces to make it easier to handle. Season the pieces on both sides with salt and pepper and refrigerate.
Peel and dice the avocados, gently toss with the lime juice and garlic paste, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
About 20 minutes before you’re ready to serve, sprinkle each of the tortillas lightly with cold water by dipping your fingers into a bowl of water and then flicking the water on the tortillas. Wrap the tortillas in a clean kitchen towel and then tightly in aluminum foil and slide them into a 300° F oven.
When the salmon is cooked, cut it into ¾-inch cubes—don’t worry if it crumbles a little—and put the cubes in a serving bowl.
Remove the foil from the tortillas—leave them in the towel—and put them on a heated plate.
Pass the tortillas, salmon, lime wedges, avocados, tomatoes, cilantro, chilies, onion, sour cream, and lettuce at the table in colorful bowls—or set them out if you’re serving buffet style—and let guests roll up their own, choosing whatever ingredients they like.
© 2001 James Peterson. All rights reserved.