A St. Patrick's Taco

With a name like O'Donnel, I must have the luck of the Irish, right? Well, kinda sorta. As an Anglo mutt of varying European stocks, I'm more Irish in name than in genealogical connection.

My German mother is hooked up with a proud Irish dude, and so every year at this time, he likes to make a pot of corned beef and cabbage. No thanks. The cabbage is typically cooked way beyond resemblance of a cruciferous vegetable, and the corned beef is just too darn fatty.

Salmon tacos -- a lot more fun than corned beef and cabbage. (Kim O'Donnel)

When it comes to paying tribute to St. Pat, I think of salmon instead. There's something about the pink, Omega 3-rich flesh that lifts me out of a winter funk (particularly under such dreary Nor'easter conditions), and by the way, salmon swim in the rivers of Ireland.

To wit, a traditional Irish toast that goes like this: "The health of the salmon to you: A long life, a full heart and a wet mouth."

(I've never kissed a salmon before, but I'll take their word for it.)

To go with that salmon, I want something green -- yes, to be corny and show a little bit of Irish spirit -- but to also incorporate notes of spring, a little Irish spring, in fact.

I guess I've got a leprechaun doing some work on my behalf, because the perfect recipe revealed itself this week, in the latest issue of Food and Wine magazine.

The recipe in question calls for salmon, zipped up with a dry spice rub that includes an intriguing hint of ground coffee, topped with a green goddess dressing of avocados, cabbage and tomatillos - and stuffed into a corn tortilla. Yes, I'm proposing tacos for St. Patrick's Day and I'm sticking to it!

What a wonderful way to get your dose of cabbage -- but this time it's spritzy and fresh on the mouth and offers a welcome crunch against the soft salmon flesh. I made these last night, and we were just about doing a jig. And forget that green beer; a sauvignon blanc pairs beautifully with these tasty morsels.

It also occurred to me while wolfing down my second taco what a great Friday-night Lenten feast this would make. One last note: I'll be doing the spice rub again when it's salmon planking-time later this spring; the yin-yang of sweet and spice really works here.

Have a great (and safe) weekend!

Dry-Rubbed Salmon Tacos with Tomatillo-Avocado Slaw
From the April 2007 issue of Food and Wine, with my notes in parentheses


1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon finely ground coffee
salt and pepper to taste (I used 1/2 teaspoon salt)
About 1 pound salmon fillets, skin removed
Olive oil, for brushing
2 tomatillos, husked and quartered
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 jalapeno, seeded and quartered,
1 garlic clove (Alternatively, use a commercially prepared tomatillo or salsa verde and doctor it up as necessary)
6 tablespoons sour cream (plain yogurt would work here as well)
1 ripe Haas avocado, halved, and pitted
4 cups finely shredded green and/or red cabbages (I used less, about 2-3 cups, from one green cabbage)
8 soft corn tortillas (Trader Joe's brand is pretty decent)
hot sauce and lime wedges for serving


In a small bowl, combine cumin, chili powder, brown sugar, coffee and salt. Brush salmon fillets with olive oil and dredge them with spice mixture. Add pepper as necessary.

In a food processor or blender, puree tomatillos, cilantro, jalapeno and garlic, until smooth. Add sour cream, then avocado, and pulse until creamy. Taste for salt and pepper, and transfer to a large bowl. Add cabbage and toss to coat.

Preheat oven to 300. Lightly brush each tortilla with olive oil and stack them. Wrap them in foil. (Alternatively, fry each tortilla in a skillet in oil for about 10 seconds on each side, and keep warm in foil.)

In a grill pan (or cast-iron skillet), cook the salmon over high heat, turning once, until nearly cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer salmon to a plate and flake with a fork.

Fill tortillas with salmon. Top with cabbage slaw (and any remaining chopped cabbage spritzed with a lime) and serve right away. Don't forget the hot sauce!

Makes enough for 3 or 4 taco lovers.

By Kim ODonnel |  March 16, 2007; 10:52 AM ET Dinner Tonight , Discoveries , Seafood
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The idea of fish tacos has always squicked me out a little bit, but these sound wunnerful! What lucky timing (hahaha), I was just sitting here pondering dinner menus and grocery shopping for next week. Thanks!

Posted by: librarylady2 | March 16, 2007 10:57 AM

What a great idea -- in the many times I've been to Ireland, I've never had corned beef there, but I've had plenty of delicious salmon.

Posted by: Kathryn | March 16, 2007 11:00 AM

ThankYouThankYouThankYou---for helping folks to see there's good Irish-inspired food out there outside of corned beef & cabbage!! I'm skipping the green beer myself & trying this new recipe...

Posted by: Deb | March 16, 2007 11:16 AM

Celebration in the USA of St. Patricks Day generates unreported contributions to the I.R.A. and its continuing terrorism. Wear Orange instead of Green.

Posted by: tucanofulano | March 16, 2007 12:01 PM

Thanks for the yummy recipe-- and congratulations on the wedding! Thanks for sharing it with us as well. :-)

Corned beef and cabbage is not the traditionally Irish dish that lots of Americans seem to think it is... though I do find it delicious, myself!I'm going to wait and see if I can get one on sale, perhaps on Sunday... I am cheap. LOL.

Posted by: Divine Ms K | March 16, 2007 4:28 PM

Ms K, Giant has both cuts of corned beef on sale. I'll take my corned beef in a Rueben sammich. But I also like cooked cabbage with sausage.

Posted by: Fred | March 17, 2007 7:31 PM

And... something else that's good with salmon is curried cabbage. Chop up a little onion and half a cabbage, add a spritz of curry powder and some butter, and micro for 5 minutes or so. Stir once in a while, until it's the way you like it. Put the salmon on top of the cabbage and mocrp some more. Yum!

Posted by: Van Ness | March 19, 2007 2:10 PM

Mrs. Kim, what's the difference between the two cuts of corned beef -- flat and point -- in terms of cooking and anything else? Thanks!

Posted by: Van Ness | March 19, 2007 2:11 PM

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