The potluck party we talk about in this post actually happened a long time ago—Jessy’s going on 27 by now—but it feels fitting to have this post so fixated on the past. High school, too, was a long time ago, but far be it from us not to think about it pretty much every day.
Having grown up in New York, we’re lucky to be able to have impromptu reunions with nearly all of our close high school friends. With the exception of one who thought she’d escape by fleeing to Mozambique, everyone has gravitated back here after college. To make sure we see each other regularly, we try to host monthly potlucks, and were planning one for March anyway when we realized our date coincided with Jessy’s birthday week. Back in the day we would have plastered Jessy’s locker with colorful birthday cards filled with long sappy notes to our BFFAEUDDUP. Our affections now slightly more restrained, with fewer acronyms, and exclamation points limited to recaps of our cooking adventures, we added cake to the menu and candles to the shopping list and were good to go.
The cake itself dates back to the early 80s, before we quarter-life cooks were even a thought. It traverses the elementary school years, when Jessy herself may even have sampled an M&M-covered version at one of my childhood birthday parties. But the meal’s main event was fish tacos, made by Jennie.
Jennie graduated from culinary school a few years ago. She now works as a professional chef at an Upper West Side restaurant we can’t afford to go to. For this high school reunion potluck, she made us fish tacos with all the fixings, allowing the rest of us to bring quick-to-make complements—dishes from quesadillas to cheese platters to fruit spreads to the aforementioned cake—in order to hold up our ends of the bring-your-own bargain. To be honest, Chef Jennie’s artful buffet stole the show.
As we finished up our third and fourth tacos, reminisced about birthday cakes past, and dug up embarrassing memories to go with the birthday fare, Jennie migrated from the kitchen to the Wii, her second love, to begin a dessert activity: Karaoke. Though her sense of pitch only marginally exceeds her sense of smell (non-existent), Jessy chimed in to sing the grand finale of our high school musical, adding the, er, regressive behavior, age-defying nerdiness, and immediate embarrassment that was a staple of our high school interactions and have now found a place in our quarter-life kitchens beyond.
Jennie’s Fish Tacos
We think fish tacos are one of the best meals to serve to friends, potluck or no. They’re unfussy, for one, and each part can be made in advance (or delegated!), if necessary.
2 pounds flaky white fish (such as orata, tilapia, mahi mahi)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 1/2 tablespoons hot sauce
Almost 1/4 cup of canola or vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
For the Crema:
1 small container sour cream
1 lime, juiced and zest half
Handful of cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper
1/2 shredded white cabbage
For the Salsa:
4-5 tomatoes, seeded
1 red onion, finely diced
2-3 cloves garlic. minced
1 bell pepper (any color), finely diced (same size as onion)
About 2-3 tablespoons cider vinegar
Regular and a good extra virgin olive oil to taste
1/2 jalapeno (with or without seeds depending on how spicy you want it)
2 large handfuls cilantro
Favorite hot sauce to taste
Pinch of sugar
Make the crema and the salsa at least a few hours before you eat so all of the flavors can become happy together. To make the crema, mix all of the ingredients and cover and refrigerate.
To seed the tomatoes for the salsa simply cut the tomato in half and squeeze out the juice
and seeds. The juice tends to be a bit acidic and the seeds are bitter (doesn’t make a
yummy salsa). The amount of sugar you need varies because it depends on how ripe and
sweet your tomatoes are. If it’s tomato season I would say that you do not need any
sugar. But if they’re beefsteak tomatoes from your supermarket, you definitely need
Marinate the fish in garlic, lime juice, hot sauce, oil, and salt and pepper for about 30
minutes before you start cooking. While it’s marinating heat up your grill. If you don’t
have a grill (indoor or outdoor) you can broil the fish or pan sear.
While the fish is marinating shred your cabbage and set aside. Now all of your
condiments are done and ready to go. All you need to do is cook the fish.
If you have a grill pan, make sure it is extremely hot before cooking fish. Season again
with salt and pepper. Cook on one side for about 3 minutes and flip and cook for another
3 minutes. When you turn the fish the first time, baste it with leftover marinade.
Once fish is cooked and has cooled down slightly, flake the fish with your fingers or a
Heat up tortillas in oven or microwave, load with fish and condiments, and eat!