Last summer, there was about a month there where the only thing I could think about was fish tacos. Unfortunately for me, according to my friend Amy, the closest place I could find them was in New Orleans and no matter what I did, I couldn’t convince my husband that we needed to take a day trip to The Big Easy so I could find Amy’s street vendor fish tacos. Left to my own devices, the internet, and some experimentation, I came up with two very different, very tasty fish taco recipes. And, in celebration of Cinco de Mayo, you get both of them this week!
There are kind of two schools of thought in the fish taco world–fried and broiled or grilled. And I truly love them both. My first encounter with fish tacos was in Logan, Utah, my hometown, at a little hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant called El Toro Viejo. These were the non-fried, cilantro-and-lime-heavy fish tacos served in flour tortillas. Believe me, it says a LOT about these tacos that, as a teenager, I wasn’t super keen on fish and yet I would eat these over just about anything else in Logan.
On the other end of the spectrum you’ve got your fried fish tacos. I didn’t have these until a few years later when I was in San Diego. I ordered a fish taco, expecting the El Toro experience, and got a taco with fried cod in it. I wasn’t so sure. And then I tried it. And I was.
I can’t say which one I like better, although the grilled tacos are (naturally) far healthier and cooking with hot oil is always an adventure, so we eat the grilled version more often. But for a special treat, these fish tacos are always a guaranteed hit. Also, if you’re not at all interested in fish tacos but you do have a hankering for fish and chips, you can just make the fish and then serve it with these or these fries and some malt vinegar and suddenly, you’re in England and not Mexico. That’s right, this recipe is a true culinary passport…
Making these tacos doesn’t have to be a completely kitchen-trashing experience (although I’ve toyed with the idea of posting pictures of what mine looked like after I made these. And then I decided against it for fear that someone might call the health department). Get your toppings ready–dressing, Pico de Gallo (or Mango Pico de Gallo), pre-shredded cabbage (think cole slaw mix), and crumbled cheese–ahead of time,
or you can even use pre-made pico or fresh salsa. That way, all you have to do is fry your fish and tortillas and the mess is minimal.
When you’re ready to cook your fish, heat your oven to the lowest setting so you can keep it warm when it’s done cooking. Rinse and pat dry 1 lb. cod fillets and then cut into 1-2-ounce strips.
Whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt and then, in a separate container, whisk together 8 oz. cold beer (or O’Doul’s, in my case) and 1 egg
and add the beer mixture to the flour mixture. Whisk together.
You’ll definitely want a candy or frying thermometer, then cooking this fish because the oil needs to be hot–375 degrees, if you’re interested. Heat 3-4 inches of canola oil in a heavy pot. Lightly dust each piece of cod in flour and then dip it in the beer batter
Drop into the hot oil and cook until golden brown, for about 7-8 minutes. You might want to test a piece–just cut it open and see if it flakes with a fork.
Remove the cooked pieces of fish from the oil and drain on a paper towel.
Stick the plate in the preheated oven.
Now…this step is going to sound a little weird, so just trust me here. You’re going to be using corn tortillas, but they need to be cooked a little so they don’t crack and so the corn flavor doesn’t overwhelm everything else. In the hot oil, cook as many tortillas as you have pieces of fish, just for 1-2 minutes–you want them to be a little crispy but still bendable. I know, I know, caloric, fat-ridden disaster, right? Yeah, probably. But, like I said, this is a rare, rare treat around our house, and really, those tortillas are so small that as long as you only have 1-2 tacos, you’re really not doing that much damage. Or so I like to think…
Anyway, when you’ve cooked your tortillas, you can assemble your tacos–1 tortilla, 1 piece of fish, a spoonful of pico de gallo, a drizzle of the amazing dressing (you’ll get a perfect drizzle if you keep it in one of those millions of squeezy plastic water bottles you probably have lying around), a big ol’ pinch of shredded cabbage, and a sprinkling of Cotija cheese and you’ve got a serious fiesta going on.
Stay tuned on Friday because I’ll be posting my grilled fish taco recipe! And you thought you’d never see more than two recipes in the seafood section of Our Best Bites!
San Diego-Style Fish Tacos
Recipe adapted from Allrecipes
1 c. all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. beer (non-alcoholic beer works great)
1 lb. cod fillets, rinsed, patted dry, and cut into 1-2 oz. strips
Corn tortillas (as many as you have pieces of fish)
Pico de Gallo (and/or Mango Pico de Gallo)
Shredded cabbage (packaged coleslaw mix works great)
Creamy Lime-Cilantro Dressing
Crumbled Cotija cheese or Queso Fresco
Fresh lime wedges and sea salt for serving
Preheat oven to 170 (or lowest setting on your oven). Combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk an egg and then whisk in the beer. Add the beer mixture to the flour mixture.
Heat about 1 quart (3-4 inches) of canola oil to 375 degrees (use a candy or frying thermometer) in a heavy cooking pot. Lightly dredge each piece of fish in flour and then dip in beer batter. Gently drop into the hot oil and cook for about 7-8 minutes or until the coating is dark golden-brown and a test piece flakes easily with a fork. Remove from oil and drain on a paper towel-lined plate; stick the plate in the preheated oven to keep warm while you cook your tortillas.
Place tortillas, 1-2 at a time, in the hot oil and cook 1-2 minutes or until they start to get crispy but are still bendable. Remove from oil and drain on a paper towel. Assemble each taco with a piece of fish, shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, crumbled Cotija cheese (or Queso Fresco), and a drizzling of Lime-Cilantro Ranch.