My husband spent may years living in San Diego, and has been talking about the fish tacos for as long as I can remember. Never having had one, I wasn’t really sold on the idea, but since I’ve decided to introduce a weekly seafood meal into our diet, I decided to check it out. The first problem was that there are about 50 different ways to make them. Steamed fish, baked fish, pan-fried fish, deep-fried fish, different sauces, different veggies…so I asked Rob to spin me his most detailed description of the fish tacos from San Diego. He remembered them deep-fried, in flour tortillas, with lettuce and some kind of sauce. Since we were supposed to be eating seafood for our health, the whole deep frying thing seemed counter-intuitive, but I also know how tragic it is (relatively speaking) when you have your heart and mouth prepared for something and then it is just plain wrong. I recently had that experience ordering crispy duck with pancakes at P.F. Chang’s, based on a fond memory of the same dish in a London restaurant – it was fine for what it was, but it was nothing like what I remembered. So, this time, I fried.
The other issue is that Sam will not eat seafood of any kind, which necessitated an alternative meal that involved some similar ingredients, but no actual fish. Here’s what I did:
Inauthentic yet Tasty Deep-Fried Fish Tacos
- 1 pound fillets of mild, white fish (I used sole)
- 1 cup flour, plus extra for dredging
- 2 teaspoons Baking-Powder
- Kosher Salt
- Burrito-sized Flour Tortillas
- 1/2 Head Iceberg Lettuce, Shredded
- Shredded Cheese
- 1 cup salsa
- 2 Tablespoons Mayonnaise
- Fresh Cilantro
- Canola or Grape-seed Oil, for frying
Mix salsa, mayonnaise, and shredded Cilantro leaves and set out in a bowl. Set out a bowl of shredded lettuce and a bowl of shredded cheese.
Mix 1 cup flour and Baking Powder with water until it forms a batter that resembles pancake batter. Heat a skillet (I use the bottom of my cast-iron) for tortillas, and heat 3-4 inches of oil in a large pot. (Unless, of course, you have a deep fryer, in which case you probably already know what to do).
If necessary, separate fillets into long strips no wider than 2 inches. One at a time, dredge fillets lightly by pressing into extra flour on a plate, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and gently coat with batter. Once oil is really hot (drop in a bit of plain batter to see if it floats to the top) carefully drop battered fillet into oil and cook, turning occasionally with a slotted spoon, until brown on both sides. Towards the end of cooking a fillet, heat one tortilla briefly on both sides, and place flat on a plate. Remove fillet from oil, place on a paper towel, and the onto the warmed tortilla. Encourage eaters to dress up their tacos with lettuce, cheese and sauce.
Equally Inauthentic Quesadillas
- Burrito-sized Flour tortillas
- 1 can refried beans
- Shredded cheese
In between making the fish tacos, spread one flour tortilla generously with refried beans and place on the pan you are using to cook tortillas. Sprinkle cheese on top of the beans, and add a second tortilla on the top. Press gently and cook for about 2 minutes, then flip the quesadilla (carefully) and cook until cheese melts. Plate, cut into quarters, and serve with plain salsa.
I would have liked this whole meal a little healthier, although it was delicious. Next time, I think the fish will not be battered, but will be dredged in flour with some spices and pan-fried. I will also include some chopped tomatoes as topping, and make a little salad of the lettuce and tomatoes as a “side” for the quesadillas. Its a work in progress, but I was pleased that I could satisfy the craving.