Archives for category: Fish

Who doesn’t like a good fish taco?

I remember the first time I even heard of the concept of this dish. I was 14 years old and visiting my Uncle Jim in Los Angeles. He had just moved out there from Yonkers and was into West Coast Mexican food, including things I’d never tasted or heard of, like fish tacos. Back then I thought “fish” and “taco” were two things not meant to be together. He drove us out of the way to what was lauded as the best joint in the city for fish tacos and when we arrived I chickened out, opting for a vegetarian burrito I’m sure. (This was the year I decided to go veg.)

Well you live and you learn.

These days, I’d almost get on a plane to fly 3,000 miles to try the fish tacos at such a joint. Except now it would probably be a food truck that I’d have to track down on Twitter.

I love fish tacos for their simplicity. Fresh corn tortillas, fish with a nice char to it, maybe some salsa verde, avocado, and lime. And that’s it. Of course there are many possible variations, and it’s hard to go wrong, but you can keep it basic and still revel in a delicious meal.

Last night I made one such version of the fish taco. Was it authentic? Not at all. Was it good? If I do say so myself. I used whole wheat tortillas, not hand-pressed corn tortillas. I concocted a kind of salsa with black beans, fresh sweet corn, just-picked cilantro, roasted yellow peppers, garlic, red onion, shredded carrots, olive oil, salt, and black pepper. I sautéed some fillets of flounder with salt, pepper, butter, and lemon (lime would’ve been even better but I didn’t have any). It was satisfying, relatively cheap, and took all of 30 minutes to throw together. Turns out fish + taco go together quite nicely.

Holly’s Fish Tacos

Serves 2

1 tbsp butter
10 oz flounder (or other white, flaky fish, such as mahi mahi)
cayenne or hot red pepper flakes
fresh lemon or lime juice
1/2 c black beans
2 ears of corn, shucked and the corn kernels cut from the cob, uncooked
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 clove of garlic, finely diced
1 carrot, shredded
1/4 c roasted red or yellow pepper, diced
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
Whole Wheat Tortillas (any kind of tortilla or soft taco will do)
1 avocado, sliced

Heat a skillet with 1 tbsp butter. (But if you have access to an outdoor grill, use it instead.) Wash the fish and pat dry, then season with salt, black pepper, and red pepper. When the pan is hot add the fish and brown on both sides for about 5 minutes per side on medium heat. You want the fish to be cooked through, but still flaky and moist. Toward the end of its cooking squeeze some fresh lemon or lime juice onto the fillets.

While that’s cooking, combine the black beans, raw corn kernels, red onion, garlic, carrot, pepper, and cilantro. Dress with the olive oil and some more fresh lemon or lime juice (maybe 1 tbsp or so). If you’d like to mellow out the raw garlic a little you can let it sit in a small amount of olive oil before combining with the other ingredients. I do this for 5-10 minutes to take the edge off.

Heat your tortillas one by one on your stove’s burner over a low flame. You must keep a close eye on them so they don’t burn or catch fire. I heat them for 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side. For a crispier tortilla turn the heat up a little bit, but again, don’t turn your back on these because they’ll char quickly.

When the tortilla is hot, transfer to a plate, and fill with some of the fish, the black bean-corn salsa, and slices of avocado. You can add salsa verde or any kind of salsa if you’d like.

When it came time to make dinner with all the goodies I brought home from the greenmarket I stuck to the original plan.

Around 3 pm, before going out for a run, I remembered to soak the Cannellinis in about 3 inches of water, covered the pot with a lid, and let them be for the next 2-3 hours.

Today was the inaugural weekend of Smorgasburg, the Brooklyn Flea food extravaganza held at Kent Ave. and N. 6th St. in Williamsburg. The New York Times covered it in Wednesday’s dining section so I was prepared for a robust turnout. I decided to swing by there on my run just to check out the scene. As I turned the corner onto N. 6th I began to see the vast sea of hungry foodies, out to try a Salvadorian papusa, duck egg mayonnaise, or an Arnold Palmer slushie. The Mayo stand had displayed a small hand-written sign that read, “Happy Rapture! Eat All the Mayo You Want!” There were no signs of rapture, but plenty of stands to get your locavore on.

I forgot my money at home so it was on with the run, then back home to tend to the meal.

I discarded the bean’s soaking liquid, then refilled the pot (beans in) with fresh water, adding two carrots cut in half, an onion, also cut in half, about a tbsp of black peppercorns, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and kosher salt. I brought the water to a boil then cocked the lid partway and let it simmer for 45 minutes. While the beans softened to the tunes of a robust gurgle, giving off steam and the aromas of simmering spices, I grated about 1/2 cup of Parmesan, finely chopped a handful of oregano, and diced about 1 cup of spring garlic, 3 cloves of garlic-garlic, and 1 shallot.

I cleaned and dried the skate fillet, added salt, pepper, and ichimi, then dredged the fillet in flour, and set aside.

When the beans were soft I turned off the heat. In a large skillet I heated 2-3 tbsp of olive oil and added the garlics and shallot. After sautéeing for about 3 or 4 minutes I gradually added the cooked beans, with a slotted spoon, to the skillet, including somewhere around 1 cup of the cooking liquid. After the liquid in the skillet had come to a boil, I turned down the heat, added the Parmesan, oregano, some more salt and pepper, and a handful of chopped spinach. Ignore for 5 minutes.

At this point, in a smaller cast iron skillet, I heated 3 tbsp of walnut oil (good for cooking at high heat), then added the skate, which just fit in the pan. I fried on each side for 3-4 minutes, until it had a nice crispy crust from the flour on each side.

I had the remaining cooking liquid from the beans reheating on a nearby burner (with all the herbs and spices at the bottom, but carrots and onion discarded), about 2 inches of liquid, then threw in the asparagus to steam, 4-5 minutes, until tender.

Everything was ready at roughly the same time. I even managed to put out a little cheese board with the Bakeri baguette and a Gruyere from Fairway that needed to be eaten sooner rather than later. It turned out to be a lovely Saturday night supper.

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