Thursday, June 4, 2015

Fish Tacos

A few turns ago when it was my turn to cook, I decided to make Fish & Chips.

What’s that you say?  You don’t recall reading about Fish & Chips?  Well, there is a good reason for that.  
It was a colossal disaster.  Apparently, you can’t bake a batter that’s meant to be fried.  For as skilled as I am with the culinary arts, that little detail evaded me.  Now I know and I will never make that mistake again. 

It appears, however, that C. was aware of this technicality because she made Fish Tacos her last turn and the batter-dipped pieces of cod not only presented beautifully, but were delicious.

We won't discuss how my attempt presented.

People in Mexico have been eating fish tacos for a very long time.  Shells, made from crushed corn and slathered with a bean paste, served as a craft for the catch of the day that was fried in cast-iron skillets over an open fire. The coastal delicacy traveled north to Baja, California around 45 years ago.  Americans gussied-up the experience to include shredded slaw, a mayonnaise-based spread, salsa and a spritz of fresh lime.  The pure simplicity of this dish, served at many roadside stands along the Baja coast and in restaurants and food trucks everywhere now, is eclipsed by the flavor punch it packs.  

Perfect Fish Tacos

2 pounds skinless red snapper or other mild white fish fillets
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white rice flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups club soda
Vegetable oil (for frying; about 8 cups)

To Assemble
16–32 small corn tortillas
Cabbage and Jicama Slaw
Fresno Chile Hot Sauce , for serving;
Sliced avocado, cilantro leaves with tender stems, Sliced pickled jalapeños, and lime wedges for serving

Remove any pin bones from fish fillets. Cut each fillet in half lengthwise. Cut each half on a diagonal into 1" strips. Work with the natural shape of the fish as you cut; this will help the pieces stay together instead of falling apart when frying.

Whisk all-purpose flour, rice flour, and salt in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in club soda until no lumps remain; adjust with more club soda or rice flour as needed to make it the consistency of thin pancake batter.

Fit a large pot with a deep-fry thermometer and pour in oil to measure 2". Heat over medium-high heat until thermometer registers 350°.

Working in batches of 5–7 pieces at a time, coat fish in batter, letting excess drip off, then carefully place in oil (to avoid splattering, lower fish into oil pointing away from you). If you overcrowd the pot, the oil temperature will drop dramatically and the fish may stick together.
Fry fish, turning occasionally with a fish spatula or slotted spoon and maintaining oil temperature at 350°, until crust is puffed, crisp, and golden brown, about 5 minutes.
Transfer to a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet; season immediately with salt.

While fish is frying, use tongs to heat tortillas one at a time directly over a gas burner, moving them often, until lightly charred and puffed in spots, about 1 minute per side.

Transfer to a plate; cover with a clean kitchen towel to keep warm. Top tortillas with fish, slaw, hot sauce, avocado, cilantro, and pickled jalapeños. Serve with lime wedges.

As you can see from the photo, we enjoyed a lovely Malbec from Argentina with our little fried gems.

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