Let me say straight off the bat that it is a pure coincidence that I’m blogging about this on Cinco de Mayo. I just don’t want you to think that I’m promoting any embarrassing bar offers of 10 cent tacos and half price margaritas to celebrate today. In fact, let’s take a moment to acknowledge what Cinco de Mayo is actually about: the Mexican army’s victory over the French (note– not the Americans) in the Battle of Puebla in what is now part of Texas. The Mexican army was able to fend off French forces who sought to take over the Puebla state to force payment of some debts. It’s not the same as Mexican Independence Day and actually has little significance in Mexico proper. In fact, it’s primarily celebrated here in the States to dedicate a day for celebrating Mexican heritage.
I won’t plead with you to make these tacos to celebrate the fifth since I can in no way claim that this is authentic Mexican food. But you should make them if you in any way love fried fish or if you’ve ever had the pleasure of eating a fried fish taco but aren’t supremely lucky enough to live in a southern California border town where they’re the best. I love how a soft, sweet and nutty corn tortilla wraps around pieces that are hot and crunchy on the outside but flaky and tender white fish on the inside. I love the peppery bite of radishes, the vinegar tang from pickled jalapenos, and the bright burst of green from cilantro all melding with the fish and a creamy chipotle mayo. I could eat my weight in fish tacos, and I say that with full knowledge that that means eating more and more tacos as my weight balloons from eating those gems. 🙂
The fish tacos I made here were made from Alaskan true cod, seasoned ahead of time then dunked in a tempura style batter made with a light ale. Instead of chipotle mayo, I made a roasted tomatillo salsa and blitzed in an avocado to make a satisfying sauce that was hot and smoky, yet creamy and silky at the same time. These are tacos that are more for celebrating the beauty of a good cerveza and hanging out near a beach than they are for celebrating the victory of the Battle of Puebla– both are worthy things to celebrate in my book.
Note: Don’t drink beer? You could probably get away with swapping out the beer in the batter with some seltzer water. The idea is to pour in a fizzy liquid that will help give plenty of lift to the batter.
Roasted Tomatillo Avocado Salsa
- 1 lb tomatillos, peeled of their outer husks and rinsed then halved
- 1 jalapeno
- 1 large white onion, peeled and sliced in thick, half-inch rounds
- 4 medium garlic cloves, skin intact
- 1 medium, ripe avocado
- 1 tablespoon honey
- juice of 1 large lime
- 1/2 cup cilantro
- 1 tsp cumin
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
- 1 lb Alaskan true cod, skin removed
- 1 tsp each dried oregano, ground cumin, and chili powder
- salt and pepper
- 3/4 c cake flour
- 1/4 c cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 to 2/3 of a 12 oz can or bottle of a light beer (dark beer will not work here)
- 4 to 6 cups of peanut oil
- salt and pepper
- corn tortillas
- shredded lettuce or cabbage
- pickled jalapenos and carrots
Set an oven rack about 6 inches from the top broiler in your oven and preheat your broiler pan under the high broiler setting. Brush the jalapeno, garlic cloves, onion slices, and tomatillos with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Set these on the broiler pan and broil until char marks form– this should take about 10 minutes but check every few minutes as some vegetables will char faster than others and will need to be flipped over to char the other side or removed to avoid burning. When garlic is cool enough to touch, squeeze the cloves from the skins. Roughly chop the onion and jalapeno (remove ribs and seeds from jalapeno if you want to avoid heat.) Add the onion, jalapeno, tomatillos, and garlic to a food processor bowl fitted with a chopping blade. Add honey, cilantro, cumin, avocado and lime juice, and puree until your desired texture is reached (smooth, chunky, whatever you like.) Take a taste and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Heat oil in a large pot or in a deep fryer to 350 degrees F. Combine oregano, chili powder, and cumin in a small bowl, then season both sides of the fish evenly with the spice blend. Cut fish into 2 to 2.5 inch pieces. In a large bowl, combine the cake flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Slowly stir in beer (or seltzer)– you’re looking for a batter the consistency of heavy cream so be careful not to add too much. Coat the pieces of fish in the batter and add in batches to the oil, frying for about 6-7 minutes or until golden brown on both sides, flipping the pieces of fish over about half way through cooking time. Remove to a paper towel lined plate and sprinkle with a little bit of salt and pepper.
To assemble tacos, lay a smear of the salsa on a warmed corn tortilla. Add some lettuce or cabbage and several pieces of fish. Top with another smear of salsa and whatever other toppings you’d like– cilantro, radish slices, pickled jalapenos/carrots, etc.