a mexican fiesta

April 13th, 2008 · 38 Comments


dear readers, i’m past the point of caring who chooses to defend this statement – but overall, the mexican food in nashville is Not. Good. it is the subject of many a local conversation and frankly, i am OVER the topic and am currently inconvincible of anything otherwise. for the most part, i’ve just given up. unless of course i decide to go it on my own – which i did – but not really. because hey, i have new foodie friends. and they not only love to cook, but they’re extraordinarily agreeable and easy to get on with which totally helps this fledgling relationship because the older i get the more ADD i become which can often make hanging out with me a bit of a chore.

so brad is the ‘true cook’ of the couple, but that joanna… she is very well versed in the art of the knife. and any woman that can happily slice and dice while making interesting conversation in my kitchen?  total keeper. there are those that cook in solitude, and i do this most often. no tv, no music. the time goes by quickly and i am more than content. but if you were to offer to help? i’d put a knife into your hands before you could ask ‘what’s for dinner?’ i love to "direct" in the kitchen. and when i win the lottery i’m not hiring a personal chef, i’m hiring a personal sous chef.

we decided to do a saturday night dinner thing, and i had fish tacos on my mind because i just happened to be in the room when martha’s show was on and emeril had just signed his life away, jumping onboard the ‘martha-god’ mothership. so the BAM-man was nervously smiling and kissing martha’s golden ass – while subserviantly making a poblano and avocado salsa to put over his halibut tacos with a grilled corn salad on the side… and well, despite the whole media love-fest freak show happening before my eyes – i was carefully paying attention. because i love me some fish tacos. truly, deeply and with feeling.

grilled fish tacos with roasted chile and avocado salsa
very adapted from emeril via martha (because i can)

2 poblano peppers
1/2 haas avocado
2 T olive oil
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
juice of 1 lime
1/2 t salt
1 t cayenne powder – or to taste
1 halibut fillet (about 1 lb)
white pepper and salt
olive oil for your cooking surface of choice
8 corn tortillas
chopped onion
cilantro and avocado as toppings

blacken the skin of the peppers directly on your stove top or grill personally, i use a butane torch which works surprisingly well cool, remove skin and the seeds (i let them sweat in a covered bowl and use a tea towel to rub off the skin) add to blender peppers, avocado, oil, water, onion, cilantro, lime juice, salt and cayenne blend till smooth season the fish and grill however works best for you heat the tortillas then you put it all together and you turn yourself around cause that’s what it’s all about…

grilled corn salad
adapted from emeril via martha

we opted to omit the tomatoes and if i had it to do over i would leave them out again as i think they would detract from the dish.

4 ears of corn, in their husks
2 jalapeno chiles
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 T very finely chopped garlic
1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
2 T mint, roughly chopped
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

submerge the corn under water while in their husks and soak for an hour, then grill the corn over a low to medium heat for about 25 minutes until the husks are blackened. do the same with the jalepenos for about 6 minutes or so. remove husks and silk from corn, remove kernels from cob and place in a large bowl. stem, seed, and finely chop the jalapenos and add to bowl with corn along with the onion, garlic, cilantro, mint, lime juice, olive oil, and salt. stir to combine and serve


brad suggested a side of beans to round it all out and after days of (i am so very sure) relentless hand wringing and agonizing over how he might seriously impress me with a killer dish – he decided upon a red mole which i then strongly insisted be paired with not just any bean, but with my vaquero ‘rancho gordo’ beans and brad happily obliged – not that he had much of a choice after my 10 minute non-stop dissertation on the many and varied attributes of those beautiful heirloom beans of which i have become so fond. i soaked, cooked and lightly salted the beans and brad arrived with a bowl of the mole from rick bayless’s book, ‘mexican kitchen‘ – and quite honestly the dish was phenomenol if not the best thing we ate all night. today, when i glanced at the recipe in the book i saw precisely why that was – as well as why i instinctively winced. it’s a total major production – if not reminiscent of my all too recent and never to be repeated mole making experience. joanna remarked how the mole would be even better the next day and i told her it was too bad that she would never know, and then refused to let them bring any of the leftover beans home – because i am like that. i’ll tell you about the exploding dessert when i am able, recovered and ready to talk about it.

which is like so not now…

Tags: beans · corn · fish · mexican

38 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Diana // Apr 13, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    That’s a better-composed plate of Mexican food than I’ve ever ordered in Nashville. I love you most of all for this: “if i had it to do over i would leave them out again…”

  • 2 RecipeGirl // Apr 13, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    I’m with you… when I visit my bro in Colorado he wants to take us out for some great Mexican food. Worse yet, our east coast relatives have their favorite Mexican establishments in Massachusetts. Since I live in San Diego (filled with out-of-this-world Mex. food), I tend to roll my eyes and offer to cook for them at home.

    I’m glad to see that people in other parts of the U.S. are aware that fish tacos are wonderful. I made fish tacos for our MA relatives last summer and they were afraid to try them. When they did… they loved them! (Non foodies of course.)

  • 3 Julie // Apr 13, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    The description of Emeril “…nervously smiling and kissing Martha’s golden ass…” gave me quite a laugh. And the food looks spectacular.

  • 4 Peter // Apr 13, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    The Mexican food in New York isn’t any good either (though it has improved, due in large part to more actual Mexicans moving here.) Fish tacos were my go-to meal out when I lived in Oakland. Leftover beans belong to them what made ‘em. I have some of my own in the fridge, and not even Charlton Heston could pry them away from me with his cold, dead hands.

  • 5 Vincent // Apr 13, 2008 at 8:07 pm

    In the words of my sous Pedro…

    “That looks Jummy Mang”

    And exploding dessert? Are you making a new show for FN?!

  • 6 Peter // Apr 13, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    I had my first proper Latin/Mexican/Tex-Mex in San Francisco and it involved seafood.

    I do like your usual tacos & stuff but that’s for soaking up booze.

  • 7 claudia // Apr 13, 2008 at 9:07 pm

    diana – it was a damn fine meal that we all felt good about. the best kinda mexican.

    recipegirl – you live in the very best place in the US for mexican… well, maybe texas too. but i’d still put my money that it’s in SoCal.

    julie – i wish you coulda seen the segment. i felt uncomfortable for the guy…

    peter #1 – I kinda remember liking rosa mexicano. but I think they’ve over-branched… and there was a place in the village – years ago really good…
    but when I go to nyc – and I go about 3x a year, Mexican is the last thing on my mind…

    vincent – i wanna a sous named Pedro…!!!

    peter #2 – that first line could be so easily misconstrued…

  • 8 Jeff // Apr 13, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    C –
    Gotta say, I’ve only had good Mexican food once in my life, in a place in Houston named Don Key’s (as in Don Quixote, I think), back in 1987 and the menu had the prices in pesos and I had to order in sign language since I don’t speak Spanish. Otherwise, my entire experience with Mexican has been forgettable and I’ve never tried to cook it myself. Still, I might try your recipe — but I’d rather you invite me over and show me.


  • 9 michelle @ TNS // Apr 13, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    fish tacos are no pork tacos, but they’re damn good.

  • 10 democommie // Apr 13, 2008 at 11:25 pm


    I’ve never had a lot of genuine Mexican, but I’ve had great texmex in Texas and some very interesting tacos in Redwood City and, of course, the fish tacos at the little place across from Mission San Juan Capistrano.

    One of the worst meals I ever had was at the oldest Mexican restaurant in Old Town, San Diego. It was just not good at all, and pricey. While I was waiting for my friends to show up for an evening out, I had a Bud and a couple of really good tacos at a stand up place–right across the street.

  • 11 Linda // Apr 14, 2008 at 6:26 am

    looks delicious! my boyfriend thanks you in advance for this recipe!

  • 12 mari // Apr 14, 2008 at 8:59 am

    Mexican food here in the NL is DIRE, but what does not kill you, makes you stronger, and I can’t wait for my birthday box from my parents to arrive with fresh(ish) corn and flour toritillas abounding!

  • 13 Donald // Apr 14, 2008 at 9:19 am

    Bueno Claudia!!!

    Ese alimento esta pareciendo delicioso!

    The mexican food here in the ATL isn’t too bad in some spots. The best is still made at home, IMHO.

  • 14 Chris // Apr 14, 2008 at 10:04 am

    Last time I had fish tacos in Nashville is was a miserable affair at, (what the hell was I thinking for ordering them here in the first place) The Cheese Cake Factory… Not that I am defending any particular restaurant, but there are some tiny places on the north side of town that represent themselves well. I even know a place that serves a Torta Lengua.

  • 15 Adina // Apr 14, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    Las Americas on Nolensville Road has excellent quacamole and killer papusas. You should give it a try– I’m sure it’s not SoCal, but for Nashville it’s pretty decent. Of course, you’ll never find anything here like what you made…looks DELICIOUS. I gotta get me some of them there beans!

  • 16 Nina // Apr 14, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    I cannot say that we eat Mexican food often, but your recipe might just change things a bit.

  • 17 ponyboat // Apr 14, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    The only decent fish tacos I have had in Nashville are, ridiculously, at Baja Express. The ones I have ordered in “real” restaurants are horribly lacking. And while Baja’s grilled mahi probably doesn’t hold a candle to yours (and I’ve only had shrimp tacos with you so I can’t say). for $2.50 a pop with some shredded cabbage and the homemade chipotle salsa they are a worthy option.

  • 18 The Urban Eater // Apr 14, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    Claudia! If you wanted a Mexican Fish taco recipe you should have asked Mal! For the love of god, please not Emeril!
    Mal and I were lucky, we lived in Austin, TX for a few years and traveled to the border a few times where we were the ONLY white people buying tacos from the street vendors. We also had friends (well, their Mothers) who were of Mexican decent teach us their families recipes. Mal also learned many, many, many dishes from his cooks (most from Mexico City) during his restuarnt days, that and we have an entire room dedicated to Mexican cookbooks.
    Okay, now you’ve inspired me to post a truly easy, truly amazing fish taco recipe.

  • 19 Lauren // Apr 14, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    that looks great. i think i may have to cook mexican tonight.

  • 20 Emily // Apr 14, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    Holy cats that looks good! Did you make the corn tortillas…that was the best part about living in Mexico – warm corn tortillas served with breakfast every morning…(drool)

  • 21 lucy // Apr 14, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    I just ate. seriously. but oh, oh, how I wish I could have taken part in that fiesta. fish tacos. oooooh.

  • 22 Nicole // Apr 14, 2008 at 8:02 pm

    Mm mm mm! I would have kept all the beans to myself, too! :-)

  • 23 We Are Never Full // Apr 14, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    God, I’ve never been a fan of Emeril since his overly annoying BAM! took over him and the Food Network sucked the actual life out of him, but I did respect him as a qualified chef (which there are not many of on TFN). I am saddened by this Martha move! I’m scared! Soon it’s going to be two monopolies – Martha Stewart and The Fool Network and anyone owned by them both!!! Really , really scared. I’m going to go give some money to pbs… right now!!!

    oh, and those fish tacos look lov-a-ly!

  • 24 Stephanie // Apr 14, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    I’ll chime in on lack of quality Mexican restaurants. DC is full of these trendy Mexican places that are more about being seen than actually eating (places I hate)…Rick Bayless has become my new best friend since moving here…

  • 25 melissa // Apr 14, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    oh claudia. I LOVE fish tacos. LOVE. LOOOOOVE. they are my favorite food behind sushi, pho and authentic tokyo ramen with braised pork belly. sandwiches follow shortly thereafter. refined, I know. I made beer battered fishies in tacos a little while back, san diego/baja style. inhaled them.

    glad you did it for yourself. I can imagine nashville aint so grand for mexican cuisine – it’s definitely a localized kind of thing. I live in socal, soooo ummm yeah. I can’t relate at all. ;P

  • 26 Holiday Grinch // Apr 15, 2008 at 7:20 am

    The other one, in the village: Dos Caminos. It was good, there’s one on Park Ave South too.
    I like my fish tacos with shrimp…and queso fresco, in California.
    It’s odd that Nashville hasn’t yet spawned a decent Mexican restaurant.

  • 27 Belinda // Apr 15, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    …agreed…most Mexican food in town tastes like every other tortilla chip in any other city. But, for the real deal burrito, there’s a hole-in-the-wall place with maybe 4 tables in it on Gallatin Rd. in East Nashville–attached to a little market…and their authentic Mexican food is actually authentic. And the chicken burrito, imo, is to-die-for. Covered in cream and parmesean cheese…I had no idea. :-) I only tell you about this because I adore you. Otherwise, I don’t want the world to find out about it.

  • 28 Kevin // Apr 15, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    That grilled fish taco dinner looks so good!

  • 29 eat // Apr 15, 2008 at 8:55 pm

    I love the corn salad recipe. I will try it next time I make fish tacos.

  • 30 Laura (bibbitybobbitybacon) // Apr 16, 2008 at 7:25 am

    Claudia, have you ever been to Louisville? I keep forgetting I only live a couple hours North of you… and our restaurants are AMAZING. If you ever have a weekend when you can get away from Chain Restaurant/Fast Food Hell, you ought to drive up here and give some of these places a shot.

    I once heard someone call my local Cuban joint the “best Cuban outside of Coral Gables, Fla.” Killer Thai and Mediterranean (oh, the best falafel in the history of mankind), really good Indian, tons of slightly fancy Italian places, fish tacos, Irish pubs, pretty good gumbo, amazing sushi, a Philipino (!!) restaurant, this weird but amazing vegan Vietnamese place, mmmmm. All the above are within 10 minutes drive from my house.

    Of course, there’s The Oak Room and some other swanky places that I on my student budget could never, ever afford, but in general, there’s a revival of very serious Continental cuisine happening here — the chefs put their local twist of course, but nobody here turns up their noses at well-executed French cuisine.


  • 31 annie // Apr 16, 2008 at 9:35 pm

    I want that. That’s all.

  • 32 Deanna Walker // Apr 17, 2008 at 3:14 am

    I happen to be one of the luckiest people in Nashville, one because I love Claudia, and two because I’m frequently lavished with her amazing kitchen creations. I was at said Mexican fiesta and can confirm that all that she said about it was true–
    the food was fabulous, the beans and mole were a smash, and the exploding dessert was indeed so traumatic that I can see why she needs time before she’s able to talk about it.
    I can also confirm, being a native New Mexican, that there is no good Mexican food in Nashville and it’s not worth having the argument because people who think otherwise are operating from such a dearth of information that there’s no way to make them understand…

  • 33 js // Apr 19, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    What a fantastic looking plate of food!

    LOL about Emeril. Yes, I did happen to see the episode where he was the guest (after the announcement that he signed his life away to Martha) and was surprised at how different he is from his BAM-persona. Subdued, subservient. Did not stay to see his fish tacos though.

    Most guests on Martha seem to be intimidated by her though. I saw the one with Eric Ripert and Jean-Georges Vongerichten (sp? too lazy to check) and they were also stiff. It’s only Daniel Boulud who seemed to engage in a kind of banter with her: he was more TV-savvy.

    Anyways too long on the Martha thing, considering that I don’t even watch her. LOL I saw a couple of episodes recently and her show has become just one big shopping catalogue. She’s always plugging this and that and it’s totally offputting.

  • 34 TaratheFoodie // Apr 19, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    Now THAT’S a good lookin’ plate of food. I love love LOVE fish tacos and well… anything remotely mexican. Those tortillas look good enough to reach through my screen and somehow pick one outta there and eat it up. :-)

  • 35 Brittany // Apr 29, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    Are there really no taco trucks in Nashville?
    My lucky ass lives in Seattle, where they are everywhere (feel free to slap me for gloating) You poor poor thing. You need to be held.
    Looks like you’re making the best of it though. I’d chomp that down happily.

  • 36 Carlos // Jun 12, 2008 at 10:32 pm

    How about the fish tacos at Los Rosales Mexican Restaurant?. Made with fresh home made tortillas, chipotle sauce mixed with other ingredients, cabbage, onions, cilantro an lime. Excelent

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