Thursday, November 5, 2009

Recipe #12: Fish Tacos

If you've never lived on or visited California, I know what you're thinking -- "That sounds disgusting." That's what I thought too. I was so wrong.

What I pictured was a fillet of broiled fish in a hard shell taco with lettuce and tomato. The Californian (Baja style) fish taco could not be any more different. It's actually beer battered cod, minus the lettuce and tomatoes. One delicious, crispy, salsa and cabbage-laden taco from Rubio's was all it took -- I was hooked for life.

When I moved from California (Hi Mary, Keala, Traci, Christin and Savannah!), I can't tell you how much I missed fish tacos. I tried a bunch of times to replicate the recipe, but before I had a deep fryer, it was really difficult to try to get the fish crispy but not drenched in oil. Finally, I have.

Many of the ingredients below are just what I serve with the tacos. A proper fish taco from Rubio's is fish on a corn tortilla (though you'll see I use flour -- none of the corn tortillas I have tried from around here have the same consistency as theirs. Better to just go with flour), cabbage, a dab of white sauce, smothered in one of their salsas from the salsa bar (I prefer the hot. If you'd like the recipe I make, you can find it here). Trust me, it takes a little effort, and you *do* deal with your kitchen smelling oily for a few hours, but it's TOTALLY worth it.

Fish Tacos

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes (for all fish)

1/2 pound cod* (this is about one fillet)
2 cups flour
3 tablespoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried minced onion
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons onion salt
1 12-ounce can of beer*
1 lime*
2 cups grated cabbage
8 flour tortillas*
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons unflavored plain yogurt

deep fryer (or shallow non-stick pan with at least 3" sides)*

For batter: In a small mixing bowl, mix flour, garlic powder, minced onion, paprika, onion salt. Add can of beer 4 ounces at a time, mix until the batter coats the back of a fork or spoon.

Heat deep fryer or oil in pan to 375 degrees. Place fish in batter bowl, coat liberally with batter. Slowly place into oil/deep fryer. Be careful not to drop or oil will splatter. Use a fork and carefully release fish from fork to avoid splatter or fish sticking to the bottom of the pan or basket. Cook until golden brown, and drain on a plate covered with paper towels.

To serve with the fish: Grate or finely chop cabbage -- red or green -- and cut a lime into 8 even pieces. In a ramekin, mix yogurt and mayo to make white sauce. If making larger proportions of fish, use equal parts yogurt and mayo, mix until the mixture is thinned.

Heat tortillas in microwave for 20 seconds, serve all ingredients -- tortillas, fried fish, cabbage, salsa, limes -- on a platter. Guests can assemble their own tacos. Optional: serve alongside chopped cilantro. Makes 8 tacos.

-Fish: I used cod fillet, because that's what Rubio's uses, and what we had at the grocery store the day I made this. If you cannot find fresh cod at your seafood counter, use any white fish. I've also made this with flounder, and it worked very well. Don't bother buying frozen boxed fish, as the fish's texture has totally changed, even during the thawing process. Frozen fish from the seafood counter is okay though. But do NOT let this thaw at room temp, unless you enjoy a very fishy-smelling house. Let it thaw, still wrapped, in the refrigerator for a day. Also, I used one fillet (1/2 pound) for this dinner, and got 8 tacos out of this. This is because I cut the pieces small, knowing they'll puff significantly during frying. Here's how big each piece of fish was, and this made 8 good sized tacos:

-Beer: We happened to have Budweiser in our house, but you can use any beer you have lying around (not actually lying around -- eww, skunky). I have used Bud, Bud Light, and Corona to make this, and they were all equally good. As common sense would tell you -- lighter beer, lighter-tasting batter. Darker beer, heavier-tasting batter.

-Tortillas: If you really prefer store-bought corn tortillas, go ahead and use them. While that is what Rubio's serves, none of the ones I can find at any store here are worth it. They are all far too powdery and dry. I used Old El Paso flour tortillas made for "Soft Tacos and Fajitas." According to the package, they're 6-inch round tortillas.

-Deep fryer/hot pan with oil: Just a few safety tips here, because I have made some mistakes before getting the hang of how to fry things withOUT ending up with burn marks.

*First off, if you've washed your hands, have water boiling or handle a damp cloth while frying or before frying. When water comes into contact with boiling lava hot oil, you have a splatter and the potential for a NASTY burn.

*Don't drop food into it. You drop food, you get burned.

*Do not OVERFILL your fryer. This means actually reading the instruction book. It will tell you the fryer's oil capacity, so you can make sure you're not putting too much or too little. For example, mine has a minimum capacity of 2 liters of oil and a maximum of 3 liters. I generally cook with about 2.5. If you overfill or under fill, you can cause serious damage to the surface you're cooking on (please, please, please make sure it's heat-resistant), to the fryer, and to yourself. Read: this is the stuff stories on the news are made of.

*When you're done cooking, don't discard of oil down the drain. Save it. Otherwise, it can harden in the drain and clog it. Then you have to pay a plumber and... that's just a lot of hassle you don't need.

*Lastly, don't put too much in the fryer at one time. With this recipe, I stick to two pieces of fish at once. Otherwise, the temperature of the oil will drop, and you end up with soggy, oil-logged fish. No one wants that. Keep your fish happy. Don't add too much at once.



Bobbi said...

My hubby loves fish taco's and I've never made them for him. Shame on me. You've inspired week I'll surprise him.

erks ortega said...

I have to say that hearing that you put the tortillas in the micro makes me want to cry.

Amy said...

Hahahah! I didn't put them in there to cook them. Even the Food Network will tell you to mic them for 15-30 seconds so they're pliable and won't break because the storebought kind aren't as good as the uncooked ones you can get at some places in Cali. If I toasted them over an open flame (which I can't since a) the grill is out of propane and b) I have an electric stove), they get crispy and break.