A Michigan native and avid member of the University of Michigan rowing team, Christopher’s path to being an executive chef in the Napa Valley followed a rather unconventional route. Inspired by a mother who baked cakes to supplement her income from the airline industry, a father who spent a lot of time in the backyard, experimenting with his meat smoker, and a mentor who once worked for the CEO of Weight Watchers, he attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park before setting off on a quest for broader culinary experience, travelling east to west across the United States. From a farm to table restaurant in the Berkshires, to the kitchens of the Besh Group in New Orleans and eventually to San Francisco to work at Atelier Crenn --just in time to experience life as a chef at a Two-Star Michelin restaurant. Stints at SPQR, Bourbon Steak, and The Claremont Hotel followed. Joining another exalted culinary team, he rose to the position of Executive Sous Chef at the much celebrated, COI, helping the restaurant earn its 3rd Michelin star.
The Napa Valley beckoned and this is where Tres Sabores was able to tap into some of his generous and creative spirit, even as he moved into the limelight once again as Executive Chef at Darioush Winery. Christopher was one of our Chef’s at our 2019 Pomegranate and Paella Party, originating a terrific shrimp taco as well as a simply breathtaking Pomegranate and Coconut ice for our festivities. I asked him to elaborate on his amazing Fish Taco recipe when we needed a particularly wonderful recipe to accompany our Sonoma Mountain Sauvignon blanc.
Grilled Chili-Marinated Rockfish Tacos with Green Mango Salsa &
Pour a glass for the chef!
We suggest: 2019 Sonoma Vineyard Sauvignon blanc
Pacific Rockfish is a really beautiful, sustainable variety of ocean perch available on the West Coast. If Rockfish is not available it’s fine to substitute Tilapia or, seek out other sustainable, local sources for your fish. This recipe will work with any mild-flavored white fish.
Fish, Tortillas, and Garnishes
Pacific Rockfish 2 Sides (1.5-2#) skinned
Corn Tortillas, 6” (Corn, Water, Lime, Salt: that’s it!)
Purple Cabbage, 1 cup thinly sliced
2 Mandarins (Cutie brand), peeled and broken into wedges, then cut in half.
Radish 1 cup, thinly shaved
Cilantro leaves, 1 cup
2 Limes, cut into wedges
Chili Cobanero, powdered 1 Tbsp
Paprika, powdered 2 Tbsp
Cumin, ground ½ tsp
Lime Zest from 2 limes
Lime juice ½ Cup (about 3 limes)
Garlic cloves 2 cloves Micro-planed or finely minced
Cilantro Stems, ½ Cup, finely cut (reserve the leaves for the Salsa)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil ½ Cup
Salt 2 tsp
For the marinade, simply mix all the ingredients together and put it into a 1- gallon Ziploc bag containing the filets of rockfish. Massage the bag to coat the fish evenly, then squeeze out the excess air and place the bag in the refrigerator for a minimum of two (but no more than four) hours.
The Marinade can be prepared ahead of time, though lime juice loses its zest if squeezed too far ahead of time.
Chili Cobanero is a smoked, sweet Guatemalan chili. If unavailable, Ancho Chili powder of the same volume should be substituted.
Before cooking the fish, remove from the marinade onto a towel to wick away any excess moisture and allow to return to room temperature. Light the clean, seasoned grill and allow to preheat.
To grill the rockfish, place the filets of rockfish on the grill and sear over high heat until nicely colored, flipping to finish cooking. Just before the fish is fully cooked, remove the filets to a plate (they will finish cooking). Once cool, the rockfish should be able to be flaked apart, with no opaque flesh.
As the fish is cooling, warm the tortillas over a flame, on a Comal, or in a microwave. Hold in a towel to maintain their heat.
For assembly place some flaked rockfish in the bottom of a tortilla then top with green mango salsa, cabbage, mandarin, radish, crema and cilantro. Finish by squeezing one wedge of lime over top and enjoy!
Green Mango Salsa
Small Red Onion, cut in half to brûlée, then finely diced
Jalapeño pepper, blistered, peeled and seeded, minced finely
Green Mango 2 Cups (about 3) diced
Roma Tomatoes ¾ Cup (about 2) diced
Zest & Juice of 1 Orange
Small Garlic clove, Micro-planed or finely minced
Cilantro Leaves, 1 Tbsp finely chopped
Salt to taste
To bring not only depth but a counterpoint to the bright, acidic flavors of the mango, brûlée the onion using an old French technique. If a cast iron pan or a Comal is available, use this, (though any heavy, conductive pan will do). Place the onion halves in the pan, side down, and bring to a medium heat, allowing the them to sizzle away. The onions will be ready when fully burnt on that one side, when they release from the pan easily. If you encounter difficulty with the onions sticking, move off the heat for a few minutes and allow the steam from the onion to help in the release. Allow these halves to cool then dice.
For the Jalapeño: blister over a flame then place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to allow the pepper to steam. Once cool, rub the skin off using a paper towel, then cut in half and seed before finely mincing.
Combine all ingredients, then season with salt to taste.
Mexican Crema or Sour Cream 1 cup
Lime Juice from ½-1 Lime
Water, 1 T (to thin the crema)
Salt to taste
The Avocado Crema, which serves as a sauce, brings some healthy fat and a welcome unctuousness to the dish. Add all of the ingredients to a food processor and pulse until smooth. Season to taste. If using sour cream, more water may be needed to bring the sauce to the correct consistency.