Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The fish tacos

I don't know what fish tacos taste like in Baja or anywhere else other than a couple of Mexican restaurants in Wisconsin and my own kitchen. But these are worth making often, so here they are. There are lots of little steps but none are really that difficult or annoying and the finished product is worth a little bit of sweat.

The array:
Corn tortillas; I buy them but if you make them, great
Shredded green cabbage
Lime aioli, the key to the whole dish
Breaded, pan-fried fish (I've made fish tacos with whitefish, catfish, lake trout, tilapia, cod, mahi, and perhaps some others I don't remember)
Mexican rice (blanco, verde, or rojo; tonight I made rojo)
Fresh lime wedges

To make this splendid aioli, I whisked together an egg yolk, the juice of half a lime, some salt, a small clove of garlic minced into a paste, and about a teaspoon of mustard. Then I slowly drizzled in vegetable oil while whisking constantly until it looked like mayonnaise. About halfway through, I added the juice of the other half a lime since it wasn't a very big lime. When it was nice and thick, I tasted for seasoning and added some finely ground white pepper--white so that no black flecks spoil the pale color. After whipping this up today and scraping it into this little bowl, I licked the spatula clean.

To make the rice, I heated up some lard in a skillet and then fried a cup of raw jasmine rice in it for a few minutes until some of the grains turned ivory white. Then I added a puree of two peeled plum tomatoes, half a white onion, and a clove of garlic, to which I added enough homemade stock to make a cup and a half. I brought this to a boil, checked for seasoning (adding salt after rice is cooked is no good), covered, and transferred to a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. I let it rest for five more before lifting the lid, fluffing with a fork, and serving it. This is arroz rojo, the red rice you get at Mexican restaurants only better. It might sound wrong to make it with Thai rice, but it's actually very right.

To heat up the tortillas, I spread them out on a baking sheet and covered them with a wet kitchen towel. Then I put them in the oven next to the rice, where they steamed from the towel's moisture for about five minutes. When I took them out, I wrapped them in the hot towel and put them in a basket, where they stayed warm until it was time to eat them.

And to make the fish, I cut up some tilapia fillets into strips that would fit in a tortilla. I seasoned them each with salt, white pepper, and cayenne, and dredged them in flour. Then I dipped the floured fillets in egg beaten with water and then in panko breadcrumbs. And I fried them in peanut oil in a nonstick pan. They took not much more than five minutes. Thai rice, Japanese breadcrumbs. It all works great.

To assemble and eat these fish tacos, you spread some aioli on a tortilla, place a piece of fish on it, and top it off with shredded cabbage. Then you squeeze some lime on top, fold it up like a slice of New York pizza, and stuff it in your mouth. I also like some aioli on the plate for dipping.


Blogger Kalyn Denny said...

Yum. I'm going to make a big confession here and say that I really like the fish tacos at Rubios even though technically it is fast food. I don't think you have Rubios in the east. They have kind of a whitish sauce on the tacos, similar to ranch dressing but much better. Your aoli sounds better.

8:07 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

YUM! Yum. Yum. These sound incredibly tasty. Another one for the "must try" list...

4:23 PM  

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