(Jan. 10, 2020) Tacos, an international favorite, are tasty and easy to make. Tortillas, protein and accompaniments comprise this trinity of goodness.
But, sometimes the simplest things require advanced knowledge if excellence is to prevail. For these reasons, we will review an Eastern Shore favorite: the fish taco.
Much like all tacos, the first thing you need to consider is its foundation.
Taco purists will argue that corn tortillas are the only way to go. There seems something magical about the toasted corn flavor mixed with fresh fish and whimsical toppings.
However, corn tortillas can become brittle and break apart fairly quickly after heating. In addition, corn tortillas have a distinct texture that can compete with the delicate fish flavor.
To heat or serve the taco in its natural state is another deliberation. There are no set rules, which opens the door for personal preference.
A flour tortilla that is quickly heated in a hot pan yields crispy edges while the taco itself is still pliable.
Fresh or frozen fish is always up for debate.
Of course, fresh is better, but there are some types of frozen fish that work well and are easier on one’s wallet. Cod, halibut and red snapper are just a few examples that will produce great fish tacos.
A fish taco needs acid and pickled red onions are a gift from heaven. Rice vinegar, sugar and salt are the basic ingredients for pickling and it only takes minutes for the pickling to take effect.
Fish tacos require a crunch and a cabbage medley that is embellished with scallions, cilantro and jalapenos lifts the taco to another level.
Fish tacos must have a creamy condiment to tie it together. A velvety avocado crema is not only delicious, but gives one the opportunity to upscale their plating skills.
Finally, consider serving your fish tacos on a black plate. The colorful taco stands out much more against a black background.
Football playoffs are here and what better way to please your guests than to offer a fish taco buffet.
Pickled red onions, pineapple-mango salsa, cabbage filling enhanced with scallions, cilantro and jalapenos, avocado crema, blackened fish and lightly toasted tortillas are the pickings to choose from.
The following recipe may look complicated, but all of the condiments are easy to execute and can be made in advance. Enjoy!
Fish Taco Buffet
Pickled Red Onions
1 small red onion, sliced thinly on a mandoline
1 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup diced pineapple
1 cup diced mango
¼ cup diced red onion
2 teaspoons minced jalapenos
¼ cup cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons lime juice
Cabbage Filling Enhanced with Scallions, Cilantro and Jalapenos
3 cups green or savoy cabbage, sliced very thinly on a mandoline
¼ cup pickling liquid from the pickled onions
2 scallions, very thinly sliced and cut into 2-inch strips
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh jalapeno
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ripe avocado
1 cup crema, sour cream, or plain Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
2 pounds skinless white fish filets, cut into 4-inch by 1-inch strips
4 tablespoons favorite blackening seasoning
½ cup all-purpose flour
kosher salt to taste
canola oil for sautéing
24 (6-inch) warmed tortillas
fresh limes wedges and cilantro as a garnish
For the Pickled Red Onions – Combine the onions, rice vinegar, lime juice, sugar and salt in a small bowl. Allow the red onion mixture to stand for 30 minutes. Strain the onions and reserve pickling liquid.
For the Pineapple-Mango Salsa – In a medium bowl, combine the pineapple, mangoes, red onion, jalapenos, cilantro and lime juice. Gently stir until all ingredients are combined. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
For the Cabbage – Using a mandoline, shred the cabbage. Combine cabbage, ¼ cup reserved pickling liquid, scallions, jalapenos, cilantro and salt. Set aside.
For the Avocado Crema – Halve and pit the avocado and scoop the flesh into a food processor.
If the avocado is hard, simply microwave until soft, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the crema, lime juice, cumin and salt. Blend mixture just until smooth.
Transfer the crema to a serving bowl or a plastic squeeze bottle for fun presentations.
For the tortillas – In a large sauté pan, add a light coating of oil over medium-high heat. Place flour tortillas in the pan and sauté briefly, about 45 seconds, turn and repeat the process for the other side. Place cooked tortillas on a plate lined with paper towels.
For the fish – Wash the fish in cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Place flour on a plate and gently press the fish (both sides) into the flour to form a light coating. Shake off any excess flour.
Sprinkle blackening seasoning on both sides of the fish. Using the same pan, sauté both sides of the fish until a nice sear appears, this will only take a few minutes.
Do not overcook the fish. Remove fish and place on plate.
* When you set up your buffet, remember to set it up according to how your guests will build their taco.
Secret Ingredient – Art. “Cookery is naturally the most ancient of all the arts, as of all the arts it is the most important.”
– George Ellwanger