Fish Tacos: How to Wow Roommates

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To try fish tacos, click here for the recipe. It's the start of the third week of school, and we're all settled into our new house (officially "Terrace Apartment", one of the three types of senior housing here at Vassar). After some pretty diligent searching on Craigslist, we still ended up getting most of our stuff from Ikea--including a lot of the kitchenware that we didn't bring from our homes or buy at the supermarket--thanks to the lack of a car. I can pretty confidently say that we now have one of the most extensively outfitted kitchens at school, thanks in no small part to all four of us liking food so much, and also thanks to parents with duplicates of things like poultry shears.

As soon as I found out about some of the specific likes and dislikes of my housemates (mostly a preference for less meat than I'm used to at home, both thanks to expenses and tastes), I knew exactly what I wanted to make for my first full meal for everyone: fish tacos. I'd only had them twice before--the first time on my junior year abroad semester while in Tokyo (the program had no cafeteria, so it was either eat out or cook for yourself), and the second this summer--it was one of my favorites of the recipes I tried.

All the fresh flavors are great, especially now, before it gets chillier and we start wanting heartier autumnal ingredients.

Our first trip to Stop & Shop three weeks ago consisted mostly of a combination of essential staples and frozen food, haphazardly gathered as we were still settling into the house and too-hungrily going up and down each aisle. Once we'd all decided our first meals (the other three were miso-glazed salmon with rice and green beans, chicken and olive orzo salad, and tofu stir-fry--again, we all like food) we went back for a second, more comprehensive shopping expedition.

Luckily, despite the chaotic shopping of the first time, we'd already gotten a lot of what I needed (and in future meals we've been trying to do that deliberately, picking what to cook based on what we still have in stock at home, as a money-saver). All it really required was getting the tilapia (serendipitously on sale that week), Greek yogurt, a pack of frozen corn, and chipotle peppers--the hardest to find, at the back of the bottom shelf in the "Mexican/Asian/Spanish" aisle. I also decided to make corn on the cob, which I wanted to grill, but ended up just boiling-a moment where I missed having access to a grill, or even a grill pan, pretty much the one implement we don't have that I wish we did.

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Photo by Kate Andersen

I cooked the next night, and it all went smoothly. It was before we got the microwave we now have (after waiting to find one cheap enough that didn't spark every time we used it), so the frozen corn for the tacos came out a little mushy, but everything else was great, and as tasty as I'd remembered from over the summer.

I love the creaminess that the yogurt and little bit of mayonnaise give to the fish, and since I combine everything together before serving, it helps hold everything in the tortillas. All the fresh flavors are great, especially now, before it gets chillier and we start wanting heartier autumnal ingredients. The zing of the lime juice and the sort of dusty flavor of the cilantro (which I am so glad all my housemates like as much as I do) underlay well together, and the smoky/spicy flavor of the chipotle peppers really stands out.

The whole dish is extremely simple and easy to clean up after (something I am growing to appreciate without a dishwasher, and with school work to get back to). You use one bowl and one pan. It also keeps well as leftovers for lunch the next day. The time spent actually cooking or chopping is also very minimal, and makes for good bursts of concentrated homework time. Fortunately--especially considering it was the first thing I really cooked here--I wasn't the only one who liked it. None of my other roommates had ever tried fish tacos before, and I think they were pleasantly surprised (I know that whenever I described it to anyone, they would just laugh at the name and assume it had to be weird).

One of the things I missed most about food at home when I was eating in the dining halls was getting different sources of protein (the dining hall was limited to chicken breasts and cold cuts), and this is a really great way to eat fish, even if you're not a huge fan. All of the flavors are so intense that the tilapia is more of a vehicle for everything else. I brought some of the leftovers (although there wasn't much--one thing I'm learning is how much you really have to cook in order for there to be substantial food for another meal) to a nearby friend, and he enjoyed it so much that he asked for the recipe, and the following week cooked it for his own house with his own variations.

Recipe: Fish Tacos

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Kate Andersen

Kate Andersen is a senior at Vassar College, in Poughkeepsie, NY, where she is majoring in Asian Studies (with a focus on religion and art). To learn more, visit her Web site.
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