Roasted fish is the key to zen fish tacos. By roasting, you can control the speed of cooking and keep the fish moist. Lost crunch from the frying can be made up for with pickled red onion (I usually make a huge batch and then use the leftovers for lunches and any other excuse I can find). The onions get a bowl, as does the avocado, which turns out to be conveniently soft and sliceable by 7-year-olds. Cilantro sprigs and lime -- I put them in a pile right on the countertop for serving -- and Cholula hot sauce on the table make up the rest of it.
If I make the onions ahead of time, I can have fish tacos ready in 15 minutes. While the fish, rubbed with cumin and ground ancho chile powder, roasts, I clean the cilantro and toast the corn tortillas in a dry pan. My kids slice the avocado and my husband pours lemonade and opens beers. You can guess who gets what. —Amanda Hesser
For the pickled onions
parts cider vinegar
For the fish tacos
pollack or hake or other good white fish
Slice the onions very thinly and put them in a microwaveable container. Add the salt and sugar. Cover everything with 1 part water to 2 parts vinegar.
Microwave for 1 minute, stir, and microwave for another minute. Cool, then refrigerate overnight (if you have time).
For the fish tacos
Heat the oven to 350° F. Season the fish with salt, then the cumin and chile. Lay the fish in a baking dish, and sprinkle with the olive oil.
Meanwhile, set out the pickled onions. Slice the avocado and put it in a bowl (I like to squeeze a little lime juice over it so it doesn’t brown). Wash and dry the cilantro and pile it on your counter. Do the same with the lime wedges.
When the oven is hot, bake the fish until just cooked through, about 10 minutes. While the fish roasts, place a large skillet over medium high heat. Add as many tortillas as you can – probably just 2 – and toast for a minute or two on each side, just enough to warm through and leave a light toasting mark; be careful not to let them dry out. Keep the warm tortillas piled under a clean tea towel.
When the fish is ready, serve it with the warm tortillas and all the fixins, and let everyone have at it, making their own dream fish tacos.
Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.