The Cheap-Ass Gourmet: Smoked Fish Tortillas (yes, really)
The other day I was treated to lunch at the home of an acquaintance whose website I was tweaking. In exchange for my efforts, I was fed a meal that pretty much made me sit up and beg — toasted tortillas filled with smoked mackerel and trout, with a nice salad and a tasty sauce on the side.
This morning, still licking my chops helplessly from the experience, I visited my local supermarket & picked up the ingredients to see whether or not I could replicate the meal at Casa Smiter today.
Answer: yes. Again, I was knocked out by just how tasty this combo really is — North Americans tend to go “Ewwwww!” at the idea of fish that isn’t breaded & made into “fingers”, but this may just bring you over to the Dark Side, where you get to eat stuff that doesn’t come out of a machine and is actually good for you.
This particular combo not only looks really pretty when it’s set out for serving (meaning nice to serve for guests), but the smoked fish (because it’s an “oily” fish) is tasty as heck and has all sorts of those Omega-3 things that the nutritionists are always harping about, that make you grow wings or eyes in the back of your head or something.
So, without further ado, here you go. Count on about 20-30 minutes prep time.
You will need:
a) for the sauce (this is basically what they call “Tartar Sauce” and sell for 5 bucks a bottle. As I always say, why bother when you can make it cheaply & easily yourself?)
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tbsp sweet green relish (yup, that stuff you put on hot-dogs)
- a few drops of Tabasco sauce
b) for the salad/veggie side bits:
- lettuce (whatever kind you like), ripped into little pieces
- sliced cucumbers
- sliced radishes
- sliced carrots
- fresh dill (this is important, as it’s a nice “foil” to the fish — although if you hate dill, skip it by all means. Dr Smiter is not your mother and you do not have to think of the starving children in India!)
- a few tablespoons of vinaigrette/salad dressing (may I humbly suggest Dr Smiter’s own Seizure Salad Dressing?)
c) the rest:
- one package of smoked fish (trout or mackerel or both; these are readily found in most supermarkets — ironically, near the fresh fish. You are not looking for canned fish here — smoked fish is usually on a styrofoam tray, wrapped in plastic & sold by weight)
- one nice ripe avocado (optional; these things can be horribly expensive — if you’re on a budget or don’t like them, skip it)
- one package of your favourite sort of soft tortilla, the smaller size (8 inches or so in diameter)
Start by making the tartar sauce — just mix all 3 ingredients together in a little bowl. Add as much Tabasco as you like — or none at all if you don’t like hot stuff. But it makes it a pretty pink colour if you’re into that sort of thing. Set this aside.
Next, assemble your salad. Hopefully you don’t need a lot of instructions for this, but you just never know. Put it in a pretty bowl and toss the dressing into it.
Third, get a nice serving plate and lay the mackerel/trout pieces on it, skin-side down. When you serve yourself a piece of the fish later, it will naturally separate from the skin, which can then be fed to your cat or dog (or inserted into the heating system of someone you don’t like, and you did not read this here…). 🙂
If you’re using an avocado, peel it, remove that giant pit, and slice the fruit*. Arrange it on the plate with the fish. If you’re feeling really fancy-schmancy, garnish the plate with a few sprigs of dill and, oh, what the hell, a couple of radish slices.
*Avocado evisceration instructions at end of this blog entry.
Now comes a tricky bit — the toasting of the tortillas. This will be done on the top of your stove so if you have a stove vent/fan, turn it on (unless you enjoy the sound of your smoke alarm). Set aside a large clean plate for the toasted tortillas and turn one of the burners on to high (this works with both gas & electric stoves).
Pick up one tortilla by its edge using a set of metal tongs. When the burner is red-hot, carefully lay the edge of the tortilla directly on the burner (or over the gas). Do not let go of it with the tongs — leave it there for about 3 seconds or till smoke comes up & that half of the tortilla is nicely toasted (it will be kind of spotty). Keep doing this until both sides of the tortilla & all the surfaces are nicely toasted.
Lay each finished tortilla on the plate, stacking them as you go. Count on 2 per person to start — you can always do more later.
When you’re done, TURN OFF THE STOVE (for all of us who are now at that delicate age when we start doing things like putting the iron in the fridge!). Also, remember to give the burner a good wipe-down later, while you’re doing the dishes; otherwise you’ll get a smoky surprise next time you turn it on.
Now, simply ferry your plates & bowls of food to the table and assemble your chow. There’s no prescribed way to do this — me, I lay a tortilla flat on my plate, and in the middle I put a couple of chunks of fish, a dollop or two of tartar sauce, a couple of slices of avocado & a generous heap of salad. Roll the whole thing up & attack. Seriously good eats.
Total expenditure (for me, today):
$4.93 for the fish
$1.99 for the avocado (because I really, really wanted it and sometimes you just have to NOT be a cheap-ass!)
$2.49 for the tortillas
a couple of bucks for the salad fixings, most of which I had on hand already, with the dill being the big expenditure at $1.49
a few pennies for the mayo, relish, dressing
So for a total of about 10 bucks, you’ve got a feast for 4 people, or lunch for yourself for the next couple of days.
And the new set of wings from the Omega-3, of course. 🙂
*As promised, Dr Smiter’s Handy-Dandy Avocado Evisceration instructions:
1. Take one ripe avocado (it will be ripe when it’s just a little bit squishy to the touch; worst to worst, ask one of the guys working the produce section in your supermarket to help you, if you don’t mind hearing a joke or two about squeezing his avocados…)… Anyway, stick the tip of a sharp knife into the avocado, piercing the skin (obviously…) and make a cut lengthwise around it. Basically you’re cutting it in half lengthwise. You’ll feel the pit inside on the blade of the knife.
2. Pull the two halves apart.
3. To get the pit out of the one half, lay that section of the avocado on the palm of your hand, pit side up. (You can not do this on a counter or flat surface because avocados are curved and your quarry will fly off.) Using extreme care (Dr Smiter is a spazz & it took me ages to get up the nerve to do this…) whack the pit with the blade of the knife. The knife will go partly into the pit & stick in it. Give the knife a twist clockwise or counter-clockwise and this loosens the pit. Carefully (again…) pull the pit off the knife (or out of your hand, if you haven’t mastered this step).
4. Peeling an avocado can be tricky if you don’t want to maul the fruit and end up with avocado slices that look like they were prepared by a wolverine off its medication…. So patiently use the blade of the knife (after the pit is off it, obviously) to peel small sections of the rind away until the fruit is exposed.
5. Lay the fruit flat-side down on a cutting board & cut it vertically into slices. Voila!