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Published April 28, 2010, 12:00 AM

Doeden: Fresh salmon great in tacos

Avocado Cream Cabbage Slaw perfect side dish
For years, I’ve stayed far away from fish. I didn’t prepare it or serve it, and I would never even consider ordering it at a restaurant. I’m not fond of that “fishy” flavor that I thought all fish naturally carried. Yet lately, I’ve been making Salmon Tacos.

For years, I’ve stayed far away from fish. I didn’t prepare it or serve it, and I would never even consider ordering it at a restaurant. I’m not fond of that “fishy” flavor that I thought all fish naturally carried.

Yet lately, I’ve been making Salmon Tacos.

Over the past few years, it seems my taste buds grew up, and they’ve developed a fondness for salmon and some other fish and seafood. I’m sure this new development can be attributed to my new friend in town. It’s the guy at the grocery store who is in charge of the fish and seafood.

He tells me when the salmon came in, whether it is a larger fish with strong flavor or a smaller salmon with less-distinct flavor. I learn when the next shipment of salmon is due into the store. And, when I want thin fillets just right for searing from near the tail of the salmon, he makes sure that’s what I get. And, finally, I’ve been eating salmon.

If you like to eat fresh fish and seafood and you want to select the best available in your area, find a store with a good reputation for having a fresh supply of fish or seafood and get to know the person who sells it at that store. You will always have a trusted person from whom you can purchase your fish.

Whenever possible, purchase displayed fish rather than prepackaged fish. Smell is a good indicator of freshness, and it is difficult to detect through plastic. Once you are handed your paper-wrapped salmon, smell it. If it doesn’t smell quite right to you, just hand it back. With warmer weather coming, it’s a good idea to have a cooler in your car to keep your fish and seafood purchases cool while you finish running errands.

For Salmon Tacos, look for boneless wild salmon fillets, not steaks. Ask the person who is helping you at the store to remove the skin before you buy it and to check to be sure all the bones have been removed.

Avoid farm-raised salmon, which are given antibiotics, fed pellets that aid their coloring and may contain toxins that are detrimental to your health.

One of the main reasons I’ve been making an effort to eat more salmon is because of the omega-3 fatty acids it provides. Omega-3s are a particular kind of polyunsaturated fat, a good heart-healthy fat.

Salmon, when seasoned boldly and seared, is the perfect filling in a taco. Searing is a method of browning food quickly over high heat. It works for fish because fillets don’t require a long cooking time. A heavy pan is required for this cooking method. I use a large, well-seasoned cast-iron skillet.

In today’s recipe, warm corn tortillas are filled with Seared Salmon and a scoop of Avocado Cream Cabbage Slaw. I like to make extra Avocado Cream. It makes a great dip for tortilla chips. It adds lots of flavor when used as a spread for a wrap.

Sometimes I make just the Avocado Cream Cabbage Slaw as a side salad for picnics or dinner on the deck. I just add a can of drained black beans and some sliced sweet red pepper and red onion. The black bean slaw is a delicious accompaniment to hamburgers, barbecued ribs and grilled chicken.

These tacos with Avocado Cream Cabbage Slaw make eating salmon so easy. And not a bit “fishy.”

Salmon Tacos with Avocado Cream Cabbage Slaw

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon chipotle powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

4 cloves garlic, peeled, chopped

2 avocados, halved, peeled and pitted

1 small jalapeño, stem and seeds removed, chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

juice from 1 lemon, about 3 tablespoons

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup sour cream

2 cups thinly sliced red cabbage

2 cups thinly sliced green cabbage

1 to 1 1/2 pounds salmon fillet, skin and bones removed

8 corn tortillas

In a small bowl, mix paprika, chili powder, chipotle powder and kosher salt. Set aside.

Make Avocado Cream by placing garlic, avocados, jalapeno, cilantro, lemon juice and salt in a blender or food processor. Process until smooth. Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl and stir in sour cream until mixture is creamy and smooth.

Place thinly sliced cabbage in a large bowl. Add avocado cream, tossing until all cabbage is lightly coated. You won’t need the entire amount of Avocado Cream. Save some to spread on the tortilla before topping.

Heat a large, heavy-bottomed skillet or griddle over high heat until it is very hot. If possible, use a well-seasoned cast-iron pan.

Season the salmon fillet on all sides with the chili powder mixture. Place the fillet on the heated pan, pressing down lightly to ensure the whole surface area is making contact. Then, let it cook. Don’t touch or jiggle it or the fish will fall apart. Let it cook for about 2 to 3 minutes, or until it naturally releases from the pan with a spatula.

Flip the fish over and sear another 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off the heat, and gently break the fish into large flakes using a spatula or tongs. Transfer to a plate or bowl. To assemble each soft taco, heat a tortilla for 30 seconds in the hot pan (with the stove turned off). Top with a slather of avocado cream, cabbage slaw and flaked seared salmon. Serve warm.

Tips from the cook

  • Shredded mild-flavored soft cheese can be added to the tacos. Monterey Jack is a nice choice. Put it on the corn tortillas as they heat up in the hot pan.
  • The amount of time your salmon takes to cook as it sears will depend on its thickness. For thicker fillets, it might take up to 4 to 5 minutes per side.
  • Chipotle powder is made of ground, dried, smoked jalapeño peppers. Chipotle powder is usually a little hotter than regular chili powder and has a smoky flavor. Smoked hot Spanish paprika can work as a substitute. Use a little at a time. You can always add more.


Sue Doeden is a food writer and photographer from Bemidji, Minn.,

and a former Fargo resident. Readers can reach Doeden at food@forumcomm.com

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