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Original Baja Fish Tacos

The Original Baja Fish Taco

Original Baja Fish Tacos

This recipe involves several steps and a merging of a few recipes before you get the final tacos, but the end result is well worth it. One taste will convince you why these are a Baja California favorite.

Only the Secret White Sauce recipe is slightly different, because chef Eric Nelson doesn’t really want to see the secret in print. But he will give it to you over the phone. So, give him a call at (210) 241-2006 and ask. Your family will thank you for it.

Nelson, corporate executive chef at Zachry, demonstrated this recently at the Pearl Farmers Market.

Herb Garden Mexican Oregano Beer Batter

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 eggs
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 (12-ounce) beer
1/4 cup Mexican oregano
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Water to thin batter

Mix flour, baking powder and sugar with eggs, melted butter, beer and Mexican oregano. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Thin out with water if needed.

Makes 1 quart.

Secret White Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
Juice of 2 lemons
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Mix mayonnaise, sour cream and lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste.

Fire-Roasted Texas-Grown Red Tomato Salsa

4 fire-roasted tomatoes, preferably Texas grown
2 white or yellow onions
4 cloves garlic
3 serrano chiles
1/4 bunch cilantro
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt, to taste

Rough chop tomatoes, onions, garlic, serranos, cilantro, olive oil and salt, and pulse with hand blender.

Makes 1 quart.

1 quart oil for frying (canola, soybean or peanut) or Fry Daddy
8 ounces mahi mahi or cod, cut into strips 2 ounces each
2 ounces flour seasoned with salt and pepper
8 ounces Herb Garden Mexican Oregano Beer Batter
4 white corn tortillas (use 2 per taco if they are thin)
8 ounces Secret White Sauce
4 ounces Fire Roasted Texas Grown Tomato Salsa
4 ounce green cabbage, shredded like coleslaw
1 lime quartered

Eric Nelson demonstrates how to make fish tacos at the Pearl Farmers Market.

Heat oil in a fryer to 350 degrees.

Dredge mahi mahi in seasoned flour.

Dredge fish in beer batter and fry until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Drain.

Warm corn tortillas in skillet.

To assemble: Place 1 corn tortilla on a plate with 1 piece of fish in center. 2 ounces Secret White Sauce on fish, 1 ounce salsa on top of white sauce, then 1 ounce shredded cabbage.  Squeeze 1 quarter of lime juice on cabbage.

Makes 4 tacos.

From Eric Nelson


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Eric Nelson Plants a Garden of Flavor at Work

Eric Nelson's herb garden at Zachry.

Eric Nelson knows that the freshest herbs you can cook with are the ones you grow yourself.

Eric Nelson

So, the corporate executive chef for Zachry did what he needed to do to make his job easier: He put in a herb garden in an upraised bed just outside the home office on Logwood.

About two dozen herbs in all were planted, including five types of mint, four types of basil, three oreganos, Provençal lavender, onion chives, two varieties of thyme, two parsleys, two sages, lemon grass, a bay leaf tree, aloe vera and mint marigold.

Now, the herbs are a regular feature at the Crossing Cafe at Zachry, where six food stations offer gourmet treats to employees as well as guests.

The herbs are used as “décor on all catering tables, for buffets, in most all dishes served in the café and catering,” says Nelson. “We have a very wide variety that we can use in any shape or form.”

Nelson's Original Baja Fish Taco

Nelson puts his oregano to good use in his Original Baja Fish Tacos, which he demonstrated recently at the Pearl Farmers Market. The dish originated in California, where the chef grew up before heading to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., where he met his wife, Laura.

He found work in restaurants in La Jolla, Calif., Irving, Texas, and Beaver Creek, Colo., before the couple decided to come to Laura’s hometown of San Antonio in 1996. He became the executive sous chef at La Mansión del Rio under Scott Cohen before beginning to work at Zachry.

At the construction firm, Nelson overseas all of the company’s catering needs, whether in-house or at the company’s two off-premise ranches.

Eric and Laura Nelson serve fish tacos at the Pearl Farmers Market.

Nelson offers some advice for home gardeners who want to put in their own herb beds: “Make sure you have the right soil and proper drainage (rock and sand layers). Make sure it is the size you need, a little herbs go a long way.”

His garden at Zachry is “completely organic,” he says. To help keep the plants healthy, “we use mint marigolds to fend off the bugs (bugs do not like their smell) and nematodes, if you get grub worms.”

Planting an herb garden is not new at restaurants. Nelson had one when he worked at La Mansión. But the chef says he had an inspiration that dates back further: “I remember Bruce (Auden) from the old Biga had herbs growing all around the old house that he used in the restaurant. Sometimes when you drove by in the morning, he would be out there drinking his morning coffee, watering all his herbs.”

Now, most mornings you’re likely to find Nelson doing the same as he tends his own garden before the day’s work in the kitchen begins.

(Photographs provided by Eric Nelson.)

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