The book “Cowgirl Chef: Texas Cooking with a French Accent” by Ellise Pierce (Running Press, $25) explores the cooking adventures of a Texan, transplanted to Paris, only to find herself cut off from the boyfriend for whom she’d moved. Forced to find a way to make a living out of her small, subterranean 16th arrondisement apartment, she turned to her love of food and cooking. That is, catering and teaching cooking classes built around the Tex-Mex favorites she’d grown up with.
As she explains in “Cowgirl Chef,” Pierce’s new home wrought some adaptations to her dishes. Not surprisingly, some of these were dictated by the tastes of her audience as well as the availability of ingredients. Her Tacos Carnitas are served with a slaw made of purple cabbage and Roquefort. Or her Tex-Mex Tart, which has a cornmeal crust and is filled with refried beans, chicken and melted cheese, could be compared to “a big nacho,” says the author.
“Paris is big on fish of all sorts,” she writes. So, fish tacos — perhaps not the most Tex-Mex of dishes — nevertheless translated well to the fish-loving French. This recipe calls for techniques she learned from her mom, including the buttermilk and cornmeal breading. It calls for medium-firm white fish, such as halibut or cod.
Pierce has made her way to San Antonio a couple of times this summer already, and she will return to teach a class at Central Market, 4821 Broadway St., from 6:30 – 9:30 p.m. July 27. The price is $65. (Call the Central Market Cooking School for class availability: (210) 368-8617.)
Fish Tacos with Mango-Avocado Salsa
1 mango, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
2 tablespoons of finely chopped red onion
1 jalapeño, finely chopped
Small handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
Pinches of sea salt, divided use
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pound medium-firm white fish
1/4 cup buttermilk
Corn oil, for frying
10-12 corn tortillas (heated)
3-4 limes, sliced into wedges, for serving
Gently toss together mango, avocado, red onion, jalapeno, cilantro and lime juice. Taste and add a pinch or two of salt.
Whisk together the cornmeal, cayenne and a big pinch of sea salt. Pour the buttermilk in a bowl. Dip your fish in the buttermilk, and then roll the pieces around in the cornmeal and shake off the excess. Add just enough corn oil to the bottom of a large skillet to coat it and turn the heat to medium-high. When it’s hot, add your fish, turning them when one side is brown. The whole process will only take a couple of minutes, since fish cooks quickly. Immediately top the hot, fresh corn tortillas with a few pieces of fish and pass the mango-avocado salsa and lime wedges.
Makes 10-12 tacos.
From “Cowgirl Chef: Texas Cooking with a French Accent” by Ellise Pierce