Tilapia Tacos & A Fabulous Chipotle Taco Dip

Amen, it’s the weekend again!!

We spend summer weekends at our cozy little cottage on Lac La Belle.  I do a big shop before we go, to gather up weekend provisions, as well groceries for weekend entertaining.  Once a weekend, we host another family for tubing, waking, boarding, and a lakeside picnic dinner.  But now that it’s almost the middle of August, I’ve hit somewhat of a cookout ‘slump’. We’ve done the usual grilled dinner fare: from burgers, brats, and hotdogs, to bbq’d chicken, ribs, and steaks.  It’s time to shake things up a little bit on the shores of Lac La Belle!

The next time we have friends out, I’m going to make these terrific fish tacos.  They’re perfect for entertaining; the preparation is simple, so I won’t have to spend the afternoon in the kitchen while our guests are hanging out on the sandbar (lordy, I do so HATE to miss a trip to the sandbar!). Another perk: these tacos are so fresh and light, they won’t feel like a big ol’ lump in your stomach after dinner!

As I mentioned, the prep is easy.  But to further simplify the dish, I’ll pick up containers of Sendiks pico de gallo and guacamole; for sides I’ll punt and make a box of Spanish rice, and a can or two of the sale Amy’s Refried Beans.  Add some icy cold Mexican beers or a chilly margarita, and a delicious lakeside fiesta is well underway!

By the by, you can use most any flaky white fish for these tacos;  I’ve used both mahi mahi and halibut with great success.

And did I mention the terrific taco dip appetizer?  I didn’t?  How unlike me!  I’m a total fool for appetizers of any kind, and can’t believe I almost left this out.  I apologize.  That definitely will not happen again.

Glad I caught that.

Here’s an upscale version of the layered taco dip we’ve all had at parties.  I love that it’s kicked up with spicy refried beans and a smokey chipotle salsa.  To balance the heat, it’s topped with layers of cilantro-lime cream, crunchy iceberg lettuce, shredded cheddar cheese, scallions, chopped tomato and olives.

A little tip from me to you:  I always divide this recipe into two different platters and I strongly suggest you do the same.  For one, while it looks lovely when it first hits the table, after a few people have dug in, this dip can start to look a bit like a bicycle wreck. Trust me, it’s true.

Also, it’s nice to have a fresh platter in the fridge that you call pull out later in the evening, or as I’ve learned to do at the lake:  set a tray of it on the ‘kid table’ (far, far away from where the adults are congregating), and let them have at it.  Teenagers are CRAZY for this stuff.  It’s like taco crack, I swear!

Bon appétit, everyone!  Enjoy your weekend!


Serves:  8-10

  • 1 can spicy re-fried beans (I used the Amy’s brand on sale this week, 9/5/09 to 9/11/09)
  • 1 package taco seasoning (any brand)
  • 1-16 oz. container sour cream
  • 1-8 oz. block cream cheese, room temperature
  • Hefty squeeze of lime juice (please, use a real lime. The stuff in the bottle is foul)
  • Hefty pinch of minced cilantro
  • 1 jar chipotle salsa (again, I used the sale Amy’s brand)
  • Shredded Mexican Blend Cheese (or, shred the sale Sendiks Brand Colby)
  • Chopped iceberg (I know, ‘ICEBERG’.  It’s a must though, so play along)
  • Sliced olives and scallions
  • Chopped tomato, optional
  • Chips for serving (go the lower-cal route if you like, and use the sale Guiltless Gourmet Baked Chips)

As discussed, have two medium platters (or cake stands, or plates, or whatever your pretty little heart desires) at the ready.

In a medium bowl, mash together the beans and the taco seasoning.  Spread this mixture on your platter(s).

In another bowl, mix together the sour cream, cream cheese, lime juice, and cilantro.  Spread this layer on top of the beans, leaving about half an inch of the beans showing.

Follow with the salsa (I like to use a slotted spoon to drain off most of the liquid from the salsa.  I don’t like watery looking dip, blech), the lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, scallions, and olives.  Garnish with a sprig of cilantro and some lime wedges if desired.  Get out your chips and stand the heck back, especially if there are hungry kids nearby….don’t say I didn’t warn you.


Serves: 4

Source:  epicurious.com

  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
  • About 1 ½ c. red wine vinegar
  • ¼ c. olive oil
  • 1 ½ t. ancho chile powder (I used Spice Island’s Ground Chipotle Chile Powder – it was HOT!)
  • 1 ½ t. dried oregano
  • ½ t. cumin
  • ¼ c. lightly packed cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, stemmed and chopped (I accidently left this out, oops!)
  • 1 lb. tilapia (or any other flaky white fish, but I used the sale Tilapia family pack)
  • Salt
  • 8 corn tortillas (or hard shells, or small flour tortillas – your preference)
  • ½ c. sour cream
  • 1-2 t. adobo sauce (from a small can; reserve the rest for another use)
  • Pico de Gallo & Guacamole

Marinate the sliced onion in a small bowl with enough red wine vinegar to cover.  Set aside for at least 30 minutes.

Pour the olive oil into a small bowl and add the chile powder, oregano, cumin, chopped cilantro, and jalapeno.  Mix well.  Place the fish on a dish and pour the marinade over it, making sure to coat the fish well on both sides.  Allow the fish to marinate for 20 minutes (mine went almost two hours and it was fine).

Meanwhile, stir together the sour cream and the adobo sauce (making it as spicy as you like).  Set aside.

Heat a large, nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Remove the fish from the marinade and place in the hot pan (there is no need to add additional oil).  Season the fish with salt.  Cook the fish for three minutes, then turn over and cook for an additional 2 minutes (obviously, you’ll need to modify this if you’re using a thicker fish).  Remove the fish from the pan and set aside.

Heat 4 corn tortillas on a plate and sandwich them between two slightly dampened sheets of paper towel.  Microwave on high for 45 seconds.  Place warm tortillas in a towel-lined basket or plate to cover.  Repeat with remaining tortillas.  (* NOTE:  I prefer to heat my corn tortillas individually over the gas flame on my cooktop.  They get a smokey, charred flavor this way).

To assemble the tacos, cut the tilapia in half lengthwise (so the pieces will fit in the tortillas).  Top with the marinated onions, a dollop of the chipotle sour cream, and the pico de gallo.  Garnish with cilantro sprigs.

Featured, Fresh, Frugal, Fabulous | August 9th, 2009