MangiaMore: FISH tacos

RER 7.9.12
I love taco night, and I always have. When I was younger (well even still) it included ground beef, taco seasoning packet, cheese, refried beans (for me), chopped lettuce and tomatoes, sour cream and mounds of salsa. But now, it has evolved. Ever since I ventured into the little tiny restaurant, spawning from a truck, Taco Truck in Hoboken (check out my review here), I have been mildly obsessed with fish tacos. Ok, maybe it is not a mild obsession. I have tried fish tacos at a few other places (Turtle Club and MAE), but none were quite as great as the ones from the Taco Truck, until we tried to make them on our own. And with that adventure, came success.

We based our little homemade fish tacos on some of the tastes and components of those from the Taco Truck, but some research and creativity has landed us our own favorite recipes.

The parts for a great fish taco fiesta go something like this… remember, there are no exact measurements because these can be morphed into something your own. These are just general outlines, and they change for us every time we make them (which is pretty frequently).

RER 10.14.12
Pico de Gallo
Pico de gallo is like salsa; it’s fresh, chunky, mild, flavorful, and cooling. It has many of the same elements of salsa, but ends up being less saucy than many salsas we find in jars, and creates a staccato effect, interspersing bites of freshness in your taco. I like to make this first, because it gets much better with at least half an hour in the fridge to percolate.

All it takes is:

·      Chopped Tomatoes- I usually use 2ish smedium tomatoes which is just enough for 6 tacos, just add more if you want a larger portion
·      Chopped Red Onion- I generally use half of a small red onion, just because I am not crazy about it. But this can also be eyeballed; if it looks pretty it is probably right
·      Finely Chopped JalapeƱo- This only takes a little bit so I would pick a little tiny one. Most times these peppers do not add much heat depending on the bite
·      A Few Sprigs of Fresh Cilantro- I take the leaves off and rip them directly on top of the other ingredients in the bowl. I am not crazy over cilantro (it tastes like soap to me, apparently it is genetic), so I deffo limit the amount of cilantro I use, but in the end I feel like it is necessary
·      A Healthy Squeeze of Lime- I usually use the juice of half of a lime
·      Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, and finely Chopped Garlic (fresh or jarred)- All of these ingredients should be to taste

Mix all the pieces in a bowl, stir it up, and throw it in the fridge to ruminate. I like to cover it too. When you take it out and uncover the bowl, the smells will be delicious.

Chipotle Mayo
Now this is a kicker. It is creamy and spicy, cooling and brings on the heat, all at the same time. This was one of the difficult things to pin point when we were chowing down on our fish tacos, but in the end, after research and playing around we got our own recipe.

All it takes is some chipotle peppers that have been canned with the adobo sauce, mayo, and sometimes some garlic powder and salt to taste. We deseed the peppers first and then cut them to a fine texture. Once this is done, add the peppers to the mayo. Usually it is about three large peppers per half a cup of mayo, but this also can be adjusted to taste or portion requirements.

Be careful it gets a little spicy.

(really important part of fish tacos)
Picking the kind of fish to use was also based on the Taco Truck recipe (yeah yeah, we were trying to come close to replicating it). There they use catfish for the little fried fish nuggets found in their tacos, so naturally, we picked catfish nuggets that are sold at some grocery stores. Some other recipes recommend mild white meat fish, but also these recipes look to a beer batter kind of frying dealie. This we wanted to stay away from. We were looking for the kind of nubby grainy sandy kind of texture, just like our Taco Truck idols. But unlike the Taco Truck, we really wanted to taste the fish, not just its breading. This was one of our main goals in attempting the fish taco. Getting the largeish catfish nuggets we do get, creates a higher fish to breading ratio, so then it becomes the star.

Once again, this is a really loose recipe for the breading. I always find that it takes time to find the ratios that you like the best, and this is only my suggestion. At first we used the recipe for fish/seafood breader, on the package of the Indian Head Old Fashioned Stone Ground Yellow Cornmeal, as follows:

·      ¾ c cornmeal
·      ½ c all purpose flour
·      1 ½ t salt
·      ¼ t red pepper
·      ½ t black pepper
·      ½ t chili powder
·      1 t garlic powder
·      1 t onion powder

 But in the end we found that there was too much cornmeal for the breading, so we inversed the ratios, even adding more flour. We also do not end up using all the spices they suggest, sticking mainly to the salt, pepper, garlic and chili powder. Even with the spices we amp up the amount we use, so even without any of the other toppings the fishes are delicious.

Breading and frying the fishes also has taken some trial and error and experimentation. The cornmeal package says to dip the fish pieces in water, and then just to coat them in the breading mixture. We tried this, and we tried an egg wash mixture to help the breading to stick to the fish. But I think what tried the best was to dip the catfish nuggets in some flour then egg wash (egg and a little water) and then finally smothering the fish piece in our cornmeal flour spice mixture.

Deep frying the nuggets is not necessary. Most times we heat up just above a quarter of an inch of vegetable oil in our pan, and let the fishes cook for a few minutes on both sides. It is really easy to tell when the fishes are almost cooked through; when the catfish nuggets are about done, they curl up and turn hot white, and the breading gets a little golden brown.

I would once they are done, place each fish piece on a plate with a paper towel, to drain some of the grease.
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So, you have the chipotle mayo, the pico de gallo, the fishes…what else do you need or want on your taco? 

Tortillas are a must. Whichever kind you like. We just tried low carb tortillas, which were wheaty and pretty good. I would not try corn tortillas, mostly because I don’t like them. They are dry and grainy, but perhaps all the toppings would disguise that.

I like to put red cabbage on there, it cools the spice and the heat, as well as gives a different kind of crunch. The color is also really pretty, deep purple and mixes well with the colors of the pico de gallo. Also before putting the cabbage on the fish taco, I drench it (well about half a lime’s worth of juice) with limejuice. The tang adds something to cut the spice and help to unify the taste of the cabbage with the lime flavor in the pico.

I generally layer some of the chipotle mayo on the tortilla, then add my fishes, top that with pico de gallo and then finally the limey red cabbage. That’s how I like it, but it is up to you to make it your own!

RER 7.9.12

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