There are many kinds of fish tacos — good, bad, mediocre. You can just grill or fry a piece of fish, use some bottled salsa, slice up some avocado, warm up a tortilla or two and be perfectly satisfied. But a REALLY good fish taco is to die for and I think it’s worth the extra effort to come up with the best. After a lot of trial and error, I’ve settled on two favorites, either of which I would consider having at my Last Supper.
The first is Baja-style: I use a firm-fleshed white fish such as cod, batter-fry it to a crisp, then put it in a warm tortilla along with sliced avocado and a wonderful fresh slaw. That’s it.
What’s so great about that, you ask? Follow the recipe carefully and you’ll find out.
Baja-style Fish Tacos
Serves 4 (2 tacos per person)
For the batter:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup tepid water
1 egg white
Sieve the flour with the salt, blend in the olive oil and then the water. Stir to a smooth cream, then let sit for at least an hour, preferably two. Before using, fold in the stiffly whipped egg white.
For the Mexican slaw:
6 cups thinly-sliced cabbage
1 large garlic clove
1 teaspoon cumin seeds (or 1/2 teaspoon ground)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon canned chipotle in adobo, chopped
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/2 small red onion, chopped fine
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Pound the garlic clove, cumin and salt together in a pestle and mortar (or bowl). Add all the following ingredients and mix well. Blend into the cabbage and let it sit for at least half an hour. This will make too much slaw for the tacos but it is so addictive that you won’t have any trouble polishing it off.
For assembling (making) the taco:
1 lb. fresh cod (or other firm-fleshed white fish)
8 – 8″ corn tortillas (size is important)
1 ripe avocado
Cut the washed and dried cod into 1/2″ x approx. 3″ pieces. Coat the pieces well with the batter.
Heat enough oil to make 1/2″ deep in an approx. 9″ non-stick pan until a drop of batter immediately crisps. Fry the fish on each side 2-3 minutes until golden. Drain on paper towels.
In the meantime, wrap the tortillas in foil and heat in the oven or wrap them in a dampened paper towel and heat in a microwave.
Peel and cut the avocado into 16 slices (2 per taco).
Assemble the tacos: cup each tortilla in your hand and put in two or three pieces of the fish. Load up with the slaw and a few slices of avocado. Devour immediately.
Salmon, Black Bean, Goat Cheese and Tomatillo-Guacamole Burritos
This involves flour tortillas, so it’s technically more of a burrito than a taco. These ingedients make for a kaleidoscope of colors and flavors. I like it best with grilled salmon, but I’ve also made it with store-bought smoked salmon and liked it just fine.
1 ripe avocado
1 clove garlic
1 jalapeño pepper
1tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 15 oz. can black beans
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon lime juice
12 oz. salmon filet (or 2×6 oz.)
1 teaspoon olive oil
4 – 8-10″ flour tortillas
4 oz. fresh goat cheese
For the Tomatillo-Guacamole:
Remove the husks from the tomatillos and rinse them under warm water to remove their stickiness. Place them, along with the clove of garlic, in a skillet on a medium flame. Turn them a few times until blackened in spots and slightly softened, about 10 minutes. Peel and chop the garlic and put it in a food processor along with the halved tomatillos, chopped jalapeño, avocado, cilantro and salt. Puree on pulse until almost smooth, but with some texture remaining. Transfer mixture to a bowl.
For the Black Beans:
Heat the beans in a saucepan with about half of their liquid and the cumin, mashing them slightly. Add salt and the lime juice.
For the Salmon:
Paint the filets with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Broil or cook on a grill pan for 3-4 minutes a side, depending on the thickness of the filets, until still opaque in the center.
Assemble the burritos:
Wrap the tortillas in foil or paper towels, heating them in the oven/microwave. Spread each one with 1/4 of the goat cheese, 1/4 of the salmon, placed across the center of the tortilla. Add a spoonful or two of black beans on one side and the same of the guacamole on the other. Roll up and serve. (If you like your tortillas piping hot as I do, you can give them a minute in the microwave.)