Monday, 4 May 2015

Baja Fish Tacos

Okay - so "technically" Baja Fish Tacos are NOT Mexican.

"TECHNICALLY" they're a California thing.  I think.

But since tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo and these are TACOS, we could totally PRETEND that they are Mexican and you could totally make them for your Cinco de Mayo celebration. 

Plus.  Margaritas.

Confession time.

Actually.  Today I have many.  But let's start with the big one.

The elephant in the room if you will.

I'm completely terrified of deep frying.

Completely.  The horror stories that surround deep frying accidents and incidents and injuries make me cringe and have ultimately resulted in me being a big darn chicken about deep frying. 

And guess what.  Turns out, that - while somewhat dangerous - deep frying is actually not so scary.  (Can you tell that I DON'T like to live on the edge?  I like the middle where it's safe and I won't burn my house down.)

ANNNNNNND - it's delicious.  Like, "we've had fish tacos 75 times in the last month and we're havin' 'em AGAIN for supper tonight" kind of delicious.

First things first.

Make sure you're using a Dutch oven or a heavy pot.  Start heating your oil early and make sure you use one of those fancy-schmancy thermometers.  You don't want to heat it too fast, because if you miss the right temp, it takes forever to cool down. And then you're waiting all night to eat.  I put mine on 6 (on the burner dial) until it gets to about 200 - 250 degrees F, then I turn it down to about a 3. 

It will take some time, so be patient.  It needs to get to and stay at a consistent 350 degrees F.  And you have to hang around (just in case), so make sure you don't have any other "multi-tasking activities" planned.


The fixin's.  You can absolutely make these while the oil is heating, or you can make them earlier in the day - whatever works best for you.

The Pico de Gallo.  Cut open the tomato and remove the seeds and any liquid.  I prefer to do this so that the Pico isn't runny.  Dice the tomato really small.  Dice the onion really small.  Dice the cilantro.  Mix them together in a bowl.  Add in the juice from the lime, a little red wine vinegar (weird - but go with it), and the salt.  Stir together and keep in the fridge until ready to serve.

The White Sauce.  This stuff seriously makes the tacos - even more so than the Pico.  Combine the milk, mayo, vinegar, and lime.  It will thicken as it sits.  Keep it in the fridge until ready to serve.

Both of these are absolutely imperative to these tacos.  They seriously escalate the tacos from damn yummy to "oh my freaking delicious".  Don't skimp out on them.

For the Fish.  This particular round, I used Sole filets - because I live in a remote town ("city") and can only get what I can get.  The Sole was just wonderful.  I used Cod the second (third?) time and that was great too.  Basically, you want a firm, white fish.  But if you can only get Sole (or, let's be honest, sometimes all I can get is Wall-eye), it will work just fine and you'll never know the difference.

After the fish is all cut up (I'd say about 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide and 2 1/2 to 3 inches long), make the beer batter.

In a large bowl, combine the flour

With the baking powder,

And the garlic powder,

The cayenne pepper,

The oregano,

And the salt and pepper.

Last up, add the beer.  I used Negra Mordelo, which is a Mexican beer and more of a dark honey brown lager.

It's supposed to fizz like that! 

Whisk it together and if it seems too dry, add more beer.  The batter should be the same consistency as pancake batter.

Okay.  Now.  While the frying part can be fast - it takes a long time to get it all done because you have to fry in batches of 4 - 6 pieces.

So you want to make sure everything is all laid out and ready for you to grab and use.  I recommend:  long skewers, a cookie sheet lined with paper towel (and preheat your oven to 200 degrees F), the spider sieve thing you'll use to remove the fish from the oil, extra paper towel. 

I also put a cardboard box on the floor under my feet to catch the oil splatters.  I think it was kind of a genius thing to do.  Like.  A LOT genius.

This was the best process I could figure out.  Grab a few pieces of paper towel and lay it out on the counter.  Dry the fish, 4, 5, or 6 pieces at a time. 

Put the fish in the batter and push it down with a skewer so it's all coated.

One piece at a time, use a skewer to lift the fish out, let the excess batter drip off and then place it in the oil.  You'll want to work quickly so the batch you're working on finishes at relatively the same time. 

Monitor your heat!  I found that I had to fiddle with the heat (turning it up, turning it down).  Every time you add the fish the temperature drops, so you need to turn up the heat to maintain the 350 degrees F, but if you leave the pot empty for too long it will heat up too much.  So you have to watch.

After the fish has been frying for about half the cook time (because the Sole was thin, I only did 3 minutes 30 seconds for a cook time and it was perfect), use your wire lifter thingy to flip the pieces over.  This may not be necessary, and the fish may not stay flipped, but you can't wander too far while you're frying to it'll give you something to do.

You'll also have to set up the next batch of fish.  Dry it, and get it in the batter while you're waiting.

Once the fish in the oil is golden brown, remove - letting some of the excess oil drip off and place the fish on the lined baking sheets.  And stick that in the oven.  At 200 degrees F, the oven will keep the fish nice and crispy and warm.

Then put in the next batch.  Dry, batter, fry, oven until all the fish is done.  Be prepared, because it will take quite a while.

Once the fish is done - it's chow time.

6-inch flour tortillas (warmed or not, your choice.  I didn't bother), cabbage (red or green - both are delightful!), the Pico de Gallo, the White Sauce, and the Fish.

(Sorry about the pictures - they're hideous and don't do Jessica's amaze-balls recipe any justice)

Between my brother, his wife, and me we totally crushed a whole pound of fried fish, 11 flour tortillas, and all the trimmings.

My 5-year old niece even devoured hers and when we had finished she looked down the table and asked "soo, you got any more tortillers over there?".  She was pretty bummed it was all gone.

Seriously, it was a clean sweep.  Even the Mexican Rice and the salad.  It was all gone. 

Light batter, perfectly cooked fish, delicately spiced - you could just eat and eat and eat and eat until it's gone and you'll wish for more.  The pico and the white sauce were the most amazing accompaniments ever created for these tacos.

Since then, I've made these twice more and the results have been the same.  Delicious.  Amazing.  Make these for me every day. 

If you've been afraid of the deep fryer.  My message is - don't be.  But.  Be patient, be diligent about keeping an eye on things, be prepared.

Don't be afraid of the deep fryer!  You definitely don't want to miss out on this completely fun and wonderful dish!

You're welcome.  In advance.

xo - Heather

Baja Fish Tacos

Pico de Gallo:
1 cup seeded diced tomatoes (I used plum tomatoes)
4 teaspoons finely diced onion
1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and set aside until tacos are served.
White Sauce:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 1/2 Tablespoons milk
Juice from half a lime
  1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and set aside until tacos are served.
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
12 ounces cold beer, more if batter is too thick
2 pounds firm white fish (halibut, cod, sole)
Juice from 1 lime
Canola oil for frying
Flour tortillas
Shredded cabbage
  1. Heat the canola oil in a Dutch oven or a deep heavy pot, about 2 inches deep.  Heat to a consistent 350 degrees F.
  2. While the oil is heating, cut the fish into straps - about 1/4 - 1/2 inch wide and 2 1/2 - 3 inches long.  I used my index finger for reference.  Place the fish in a bowl, sprinkle with lime juice and a little salt.  Toss to combine.
  3. Make the batter next.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, garlic, cayenne pepper, oregano, salt, and pepper and stir with a whisk.  Pour in the beer and whisk to combine.  Add more beer, a tablespoon at a time, until the batter is similar to pancake batter.
  4. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees F and line a baking sheet with paper towel.
  5. Working in small batches, pat the fish dry.  Place the fish in the batter and ensure that it is covered completely.  Using a skewer, remove the fish from the batter, one piece at a time, allowing the excess batter to drip off the fish.  Place in the fish in the hot oil.  Working quickly, add the remaining few pieces of fish. 
  6. Cook until the batter is golden brown and crisp.  This should take about 4 - 5 minutes.  (When I used the sole filet it was quite thin, so I only cooked the pieces for 3 1/2 minutes)
  7. Remove the fish from the oil and place on the lined baking sheets to drain excess oil.  Keep the baking sheet in the oven so that the fish stays warm and crispy until the remainder is cooked.
  8. Assemble the tacos:  Lay a tortilla down on the plate, add cabbage, Pico de Gallo, as desired.  Add a couple of pieces of fish, and drizzle on some of the White Sauce.  Enjoy.
Source:  A Happy Food Dance

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