For some reason, fish is one of those foods that either you hate or love. There’s really no in between. So if you’re a hater, well then all I can say is – haters gonna hate. You see there are so many different types of fish, and to say you hate fish, is just short sighted. That’s like eating the white meat on chicken, and saying “Bah Humbug (yeah apparently you’re Ebenezer Scrooge in this little ditty), I hate all forms of cooked animal!” Saying you hate fish encompasses tuna, salmon, flounder, halibut (i think you get the point) and all of those taste differently, so how can one make a broad sweeping statement, that they don’t like fish? Well in my meaningless opinion I think it has to do with the fact that most people aren’t treating fish properly. Fish are very technique sensitive that a lot of the times the reason why the fish isn’t good, isn’t because you just don’t like it, but more because it probably wasn’t handled right. The real nutsos will bring a cooler filled with ice to the store, so the fish won’t get below the proper temperature. And the smell? Well fish isn’t supposed to smell. Crazy right? If your fish smells fishy, well then chances are it’s not at it’s ideal.
All this is not to say that it will be spoiled, and in-edible, but I guess what I’m really trying to say is, with every corner we try to cut the end result is your food won’t taste as great as it could have. I’m a firm believer of this. We all cut corners, but knowing what we do in the kitchen, will greatly help to know which corners can be cut, and which can’t.
There are a few reasons why fish break down much more easily than say chicken or beef. First off, they don’t need the body structure to support themselves considering they have the luxury of lounging around all day in water. So there’s very little connective tissue, and most of their muscles aren’t really used that much. (Think about bottom dwellers like flounder, and how white their meat is, versus a salmon, which has to work pretty hard to go upstream at the end of its life, versus how red tuna is, which exerts a lot more energy to travel the distances it goes). Another nice thing about being in water all day, fish aren’t really subjected to great changes in temperatures, so they can’t really handle when the temperature does drop when you put it in your hot car. Another reason fish break down easily, is most fish tend to have this nasty habit of eating other fish, and in order to properly digest those fish, they need certain enzymes to break them down. Well can you guess what happens when said fishy dies? Yup, it’s own enzymes will have a field day, free food! Which is also why you want to gut the fish as soon as possible. All right so bottom line – fish are temperamental creatures, and are technique sensitive, and it responds greatly to slight changes, so what I guess I’m saying is – Don’t say you hate fish until you’ve tried it prepared properly.
All right, enough of my diatribe, on to cooking, shall we?
I really can’t say much about what traditionally makes a classic fish taco. From what I understand, it was born in the Baja region in Mexica (the little strip that continues south of California). I guess that makes sense, seeing the people of the land were used to eating tacos, and they had a ton of fish around, bingo bango let’s make some fish tacos.
Now which fish make up a traditional Baja fish taco? No idea, probably whatever was available, and whatever was cheap. So it’s probably not tuna or salmon, but I couldn’t tell you exactly which fish is traditional. Although I can tell you it’s probably not bronzini, which is what I used, and guess what? I don’t care! I saw these bronzini (which are apparently also called European sea bass), in my local Whole Foods, and decided it was taco time.
I chopped them up, coated them in flour, and sauteed them in some butter.
That’s it, well at least for the fish part. From what I understand, fish tacos are traditionally served with something called “crema” which is spanish for “cream,” so again, I’m not 100% sure what constitutes traditional crema, but we’ll try and make something that we can pretend is like it, right? Grrrr-ate.
I pride myself in stocking a pretty good pantry, and one of the things that I’ve seen are pretty useful are dried chilis. I have dried chilis de arbol, New Mexico, and chipotle, and they’re really a great way to add spice to any dish you want. You can re-hydrate them by letting them seep in some hot water, and presto, you got some chipotle peppers. So that’s what I did…I added hydrated chipotle, and new mexico chilis, some sour cream, some mayo, and some milk to thin it out, with some salt and pepper, and whirred it all together, and whaddya know, it was pretty freaking amazing.
Now it was all about bringing it together.
Taco + fish + red onions + crema = Fish Taco awesomeness
For the Fish Tacos
- Fish (duh) – flesh shouldn’t be too firm – cut into chunks
- Flour for dredging
- 2-3 Tablespoons butter for frying
- 1/2 small red onion – thinly sliced
For the Crema
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 3 Tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 Tablespoon milk
- 1 Chipotle chili (if dried, than re-hydrated with 1-2 tablespoons of hot water, or you can use canned)
- 1 New Mexico chili (again, if dried, re-hydrate)
- Prepare the crema – add all ingredients to a food processor or blender and whir it all together, adjusting to taste
- Dredge the fish in the flour, and sautee in the butter
- Assemble the taco – put the fish, red onions, and crema, and stuff your face