Baja-ish Fish Tacos
Know how on Friday we said that tacos are the best because they are really easy? Well tacos are also the best when they take a little effort.
We’d never thought of fish as taco fodder outside of the realm of vagina jokes, but it’s basically heaven in a tortilla. Especially when it’s fried, and slathered with spicy, smokey crema and brightly crisp slaw. The key to a really amazing fish taco is nailing the balance between crunchy and tender. For us, it’s all about the batter.
The batter serves not only as protection for the delicate fish from the searing hot oil: it’s the main textural component of the taco. It can’t be so crispy that it shatters and falls out of the tortilla— but it’s gotta have enough crunch to differentiate itself from the fish. To achieve this tempura nirvana, gluten control is essential.
Gluten is more than that thing your coworker isn’t eating right now. It is the elastic protein found in wheat and wheat-like grains. It’s responsible for the crackle crust and chewiness in your favorite baguette— and it’s what makes overworked cakes turn into rubbery hockey pucks. In deep frying, gluten’s what gives your batter a shattery crunch. We keep it in balance by replacing half of the flour with a naturally gluten free Corn Starch (which absorbs water, giving a puffy, soft interior) and switched the rest to a naturally low-gluten Cake Flour. You can use All-Purpose Flour if you must, but be careful to not over-mix if you want that perfectly crisp, golden crust.
Baja-ish Fish Tacos
- 1 lb Cod - We use Sitka Salmon Shares Pacific Cod because it is fucking delicious. It’s mild in flavor, slightly firm and super moist so it stands up to frying. If you can’t hook up (ha! get it!) with our boys in Alaska, you should make sure your stand-in fish is both delicious and responsibly-sourced, like halibut.
- ½ cup Cornstarch - plus ¼ cup, set aside
- ½ cup Cake Flour - plus ¼ cup, set aside
- ½ tsp Baking Soda
- 1 tsp Goya Adobo, plus more for seasoning at the end
- 1 tbsp Chili Powder
- 1 cup of Beer - something light-colored and cheap works best
- Radish and Cabbage Slaw and Chipotle-Lime Crema, recipes below
You will also need:
- A Cast Iron Skillet or Dutch Oven - something heavy that will hold 2 inches of oil without catching your house on fire.
- 1 qt Neutral Tasting Oil for frying - we like Peanut Oil. It might kill you, though. So. You know. YMMV
- Paper Towels laid out on a Baking Sheet (or whatever) for draining
- Sturdy Tongs
Ready your paper towels and tongs.
Give your Cod a rinse under cold water and pat thoroughly dry with a paper towel. Cut into Taco-Sized strips (we go with 1.5”x2” chunks).
Add the Oil to your Skillet and begin to warm over medium heat. We’re aiming for a temperature of 350°, or when a drop of batter begins to immediately float and sizzle, browning within 30 seconds.
In a small bowl or on a plate, combine the ¼ cup each of Cornstarch and Cake Flour to make a Dredge. In a bigger bowl, combine ½ cup each of the Cornstarch and Cake Flour, along with the Baking Soda, Goya Adobo and Chili Powder. Whisk in the Beer until just combined, and it looks like a Batter.
Test the Oil temperature and, when it’s ready, lightly coat each piece of Cod in the dredge and then cover completely in Batter. It’s important that there are no gaps in your batter, because it can let oil seep into the fish to 1) dry it out and 2) make it greasy. Immediately (and carefully) drop the Battered Cod into the Oil. Fry in small batches until everything’s golden and crispy, being sure to flip occasionally.
It should take about 45 seconds on each side, but you know what fried fish should look like: trust your instincts.
Drain on paper towels, season again with a little Goya Adobo, assemble tacos, eat and repeat.
Radish and Cabbage Slaw
- 4 Radishes, thinly sliced
- 2 cups Red Cabbage, shredded
- 1 Lime, juiced
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil
- Cilantro, if it’s your thing.
Let’s see if you can figure this one out on your own, kids.
- ½ cup Crema - you can sub Sour Cream in dire straits.
- 3 tbsp Mayonnaise
- 2 tbsp Adobo from a can of Chipotles in Adobo - if you like things spicy, add a diced Chipotle in the mix, too
- 1 Lime, Juiced
Mix it together. Make sure it tastes good. Put it on stuff.