We are getting antsy for grilling season here in North Carolina. That’s not to say that it has been entirely too cold to grill. My husband and I have a 60°F cutoff—we are good to go with grilling as long as the temperature is in that range but so far this “spring,” it has been hit or miss. I put some burgers on the grill just last Wednesday but over the weekend, an unexpected blast of wintry mix left my already-in-bloom daffodils shivering in the beds out front, and a freeze warning last night forced me to lay blankets and towels over my emerging peony shoots. Just when we thought it was warm for good—go figure!
Until we get some consistency in the weather department (feel free to yell “amen” if the skies are screwy at your house, too), we are stuck cooking indoors. Luckily, we have one of those “griddle in the middle” things on our gas range, which affords us an easy indoor option for light grilling. The heavy cast-iron griddle is removable (and reversible), intended as a swap-in for the grate that would normally cover a wide gas burner, but we use the griddle so frequently that it has become a permanent fixture. The flat side is perfect for making pancakes, reheating pizza slices or crisping up a grilled cheese sandwich. The flip side is great for quick grilling jobs, like the mouth-watering, marinated tuna we put on these tacos.
Though I grew up eating tacos and other Mexican cuisine, I had never heard of fish or shrimp tacos until I was an adult, and it was a marvelous epiphany! Unlike the greasy ground beef-and-cheese tacos of my childhood, these beauties are light and flavorful, and I love dressing them up with fresh veggies and a squeeze of citrus. For us this time, it was shredded cabbage tossed with bottled avocado ranch, pico de gallo, scallions, avocado and cilantro. It’s a whole new category of comfort food—easy and fresh, with lots of great texture! Les likes a little dollop of cool sour cream, too, and it sure makes for a pretty picture.
The most important flavor component of this meal was, of course, the tequila-lime marinade. Besides the namesake ingredients, I whisked in fresh garlic, red wine vinegar, chili powder and agave for a bright, punchy flavor on the tuna, and another departure from the heavy flavors I had always associated with Mexican food.
The critical rule for marinating in citrus juice is simple: keep it short and sweet because the acids in the lime juice will turn seafood into ceviche if they mingle too long. I gave it 30 minutes in the marinade, which was just long enough to pour a Mexican lager, prep all my toppings and pre-heat the griddle.
Fresh tuna is best (and most tender) when cooked to medium rare, and you should let it rest a couple of minutes before slicing or chopping it for tacos.
While the tuna is resting, toss your corn tortillas onto the hot grill long enough to warm them and apply some grill marks. Store-bought tortillas are fine, but if you have some time and a little bit of patience, it’s worth the effort to make them yourself. I shared a post for handmade corn tortillas a while back; feel free to check that out for some tips to make it a little easier (and in fun flavors).
If you don’t have an outdoor grill or in-range griddle, or if unexpected wintry mix shows up out of nowhere, cast-iron grilling can save the day. If your range doesn’t have this option, a grilling pan or range-top griddle are both good options. I don’t recommend using them indoors for very high-fat foods (unless you enjoy degreasing your entire kitchen after a meal), but for veggies, fruit, pancakes, eggs and light seafood, cast iron on the stovetop produces excellent results.
Tequila & Lime Tuna Tacos
The marinade is the star of this recipe, which brings freshness and flavor to Taco Tuesday!
- Up to 16 ounces fresh tuna steak (marinade will cover this much; plan for 4 ounces per person)
- 2 Tbsp. silver or reposado tequila* (see notes below)
- Juice of 1 small lime
- 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. chili powder blend
- 1 tsp. kosher salt (less if your chili powder includes salt)
- A few twists black pepper
- 1 tsp. agave syrup* (or sugar)
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil or avocado oil
- White corn tortillas, for serving
- Desired accoutrements (we used shredded cabbage, thin radish slices, cubes of avocado, bias-cut scallions, cilantro leaves, pico de gallo, sour cream and lime wedges)
- In a glass measuring cup, combine the tequila, lime juice, vinegar, garlic, seasonings and agave. Whisk in olive or avocado oil to create a cohesive marinade.
- Place tuna steak(s) into a shallow glass dish or plastic zip-top bag. Pour marinade over steaks, turning several times to ensure good coverage. Let the steaks marinate for 30 minutes while you prep your accoutrements.
- Pre-heat a grill pan to medium-high. Oil the grates, and then remove tuna from marinade, allowing excess liquid to drip off. Place the steak on the grill and cook about 2 minutes, until first side is seared and displays nice grill marks. Turn steaks over and cook the other side the same amount of time. Transfer to a warm plate to rest 5 minutes while you heat the corn tortillas on both sides on the same grill pan.
- Move tuna steaks to a cutting board and chop into bite-sized pieces. Assemble tacos and enjoy!