Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Crispy Fish Tacos: impress all your friends.

When I go to the grocery store for the week, I like to plan meals around what's on sale, namely what sort of meat is on sale as that can be the priciest piece of the puzzle. Lo and behold, Tilapia, which is maybe my favorite fish, was on a pretty fantastic deal last Monday. In the cart it went and out came the old smartphone.
I know. I'm becoming one of those people who stands in the middle of the produce section squinting at her iPhone oblivious to the milling patrons trying to squeeze past her parked cart. But let me tell you this: the epicurious app is phenomenal and totally worth it.
No, I'm not being paid to tout this app, I just love it. Let me gush for a moment: it lets you search for recipes on-the-go in a myriad of different ways. One can search by main ingredient, meal/course, dietary consideration, dish type, and season or occasion. For example, when I found the Tilapia, I pulled up the app to search for a meal.I searched by main ingredient (seafood) and cuisine (mexican) and it lead me to this sure-to-please recipe for fish tacos. Plus, once you find your recipes, it will make a shopping list for you to check off as you go through the store and it organizes it all according to produce, dairy, meat, and on and on so you can make one quick pass. AND if you have multiple recipes that call for the same ingredient, it adds up the total for you. Oh my. Pure bliss.

So, back to the fish taco platter.
There were a lot of firsts for me: I had never marinated fish (or really anything) in buttermilk, I had never pickled anything, and had no clue how to make salsa verde. Thankfully those days are behind me now. This fish is pretty straightforward, it's really making all the little accouterments that can be time consuming. The recipe calls for Halibut or Bass, but I think you could use any of the flaky white fishes and this would work. Here's the scoop from the recipe:
Read on for the recipe after the jump!

  • Fish
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons hot pepper sauce
  • 3 teaspoons coarse kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 2 pounds skinless halibut, sea bass, or striped bass fillets, cut into 1/2x1/2-inch strips

Mix buttermilk, cilantro, pepper sauce, 1 teaspoon salt, and lime juice in large bowl. Add fish; toss. Cover; chill at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours.
Preheat oven to 300°F. Wrap tortillas in foil; place in oven to warm. Whisk flour and remaining 2 teaspoons salt in medium bowl. Add enough oil to large skillet to reach depth of 1 inch. Heat oil until thermometer registers 350°F. Working in batches, remove fish from marinade and dredge in flour. Carefully add fish to skillet, cover partially, and fry until golden brown, turning occasionally, about 4 minutes. Transfer to paper-towel-lined baking sheet to drain, then transfer to oven to keep warm.
fish in the marinade

The Marinade is genius. Keep it in there as long as you can. I marinated mine for about an hour and a half and it was tasty. We used Frank's Red Hot for the pepper sauce since it was all we had, and it worked out great. Also, I tossed it in all purpose flour rather than self rising and it came out crispy and delicious. Just be careful when flipping and removing the fish from the pan not to hurt that delicious crispy shell or break the fish apart. Also, don't worry about the oil temp. We used olive oil and I waited until a crumb fried when I threw it in. Just be careful not to scorch the oil because that tastes bad. If it starts smoking that should be a red flag. Here's a tip: while the fish is marinating, you can get all the condiments made. Start with the pickled red onions.

Pickled Red Onion and Jalapeños
  • 1 red onion (about 12 ounces), halved lengthwise, cut thinly crosswise
  • 5 whole small jalapeños
  • 2 cups seasoned rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt

Place onion and jalapeños in heatproof medium bowl. Mix vinegar, lime juice, and salt in small saucepan. Bring just to boil, stirring until salt dissolves. Pour over onion and jalapeños. Let stand at room temperature at least 1 hour and up to 8 hours. (Can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

I don't think the proportions here for the pickling liquid need to be extremely precise, just make sure you have enough liquid to cover your onions and jalapeños. This was probably the best part of the dish for me. It adds great acidity and a nice freshness. Let me warn you that when you warm up vinegar, it does smell and made me cough a bit. Don't worry, this too shall pass, and it's worth the end result.

Tomatillo Salsa Verde
  • 12 ounces tomatillos,* husked, stemmed, divided
  • 4 green onions, white and green parts separated
  • 1 jalapeño chile
  • 2 garlic cloves, unpeeled

  • 1 1/4 cups (packed) fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon (or more) fresh lime juice

Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly oil roasting pan. Char half of tomatillos, white parts of green onions, and jalapeño directly over gas flame or in broiler. Transfer charred vegetables to prepared roasting pan. Add remaining tomatillos and garlic cloves to pan. Roast until all vegetables are soft, about 12 minutes. Cool.
Stem and seed jalapeño. Place all roasted vegetables, green onion tops, cilantro, and 1 tablespoon lime juice in blender. Puree until smooth, stopping to push vegetables down into blades several times. Transfer to medium bowl. Season with salt and more lime juice, if desired.

This was the most challenging. I didn't char the tomatillos because I wasn't equipped to do so, but it would had added a nice flavor. Roasting everything is very important. The Tomatillos are not a very strong flavor, so the Cilantro ends up taking a lead role in this sauce. I found it needed more lime juice plus some salt and pepper when I was done. It's also a great fresh taste.

Finally, there's the Baja Cream. I'm not going to copy and paste the directions because it's easy: 1/2 sour cream, 1/2 mayo, stir together with lime juice. I know it may sound weird but it's delicious! Gives a little more richness than just sour cream. 

Sean and I tore through these tacos. We made a much smaller amount, but I wish we'd invited folks over for a taco night. These are fun, filling, and impressive, so very perfect for company. I hope you enjoy experimenting with your own! -hil


  1. Crazy! I think I made the same recipe once. You might be able to char your tomatillos by putting them under the broiler if it's strong enough. The one in our toaster oven is so weak that I usually don't wait for it to char, but I've done it in the past with the main oven by putting peppers or whatnot on the highest shelf below the broiler.

  2. I LOVE epicurious its the best isn't? Miss ya