Quietly awaiting their dousing of salsa and cilantro...
Here's a random list of foods I did not like as a child, but now quite enjoy:
most meats (especially pork chops!)
unsweetened sparkling water
beer (yeah, I tried my step-dad's Old Mil when I was nine. Kept me clean 'til 19.)
But I always liked fish. Even in my vegetarian days, I wouldn't eat it, but I would think fondly of a big plate of crispy fried walleye, Shore Lunch style. When I was pregnant, I craved fish fillet sandwiches from fast food joints. And on the rare occasions that I find myself in a decent Mexican restaurant, I will happily order the fish tacos every single time.
In Bismarck, we don't have a lot of Mexican restaurant options. There's a hole-in-the-wall called Taco Palenque, down in the industrial section of south Bismarck. I really want to love it, because it's authentic, the people behind the counter actually speak Spanish, and it seems like everything is homemade. But to me, the meat is weird - grisly, tough to chew. I don't know if they make fish tacos there, but I'm going to trust my instincts on this one and make these at home instead.
Although I love these, I don't make them often because it's not a one-pot meal, and you need to take a little extra time to pull together all the components to make it great. The magic of tacos to me are the layers of flavors and textures and temperatures you can get in one bite. Warm toasty corn tortilla + cold crunchy cabbage + hot seasoned fish + tangy pickled onions + spicy salsa + creamy dressing + squeeze of lime juice = one memorable bite, and a reminder that taking the time to bring layers of flavor to a meal is so worth it.
I originally posted this recipe in 2009. I think we're due for a revisit. I made a few adjustments, though. 1) I didn't fry the fish, going for a cleaner taste this time, 2) I added quick pickled onions, inspired from this recipe. If you make these tacos, PLEASE try them with these onions on top. Just thinly slice half a red onion, cover in red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar, and let them sit for 30 mins (will keep in the fridge for a long time). They add a burst of flavor.
The marinade is your chance to experiment. Like it a little spicy? Add jalapeno. In a hurry? Skip the list of seasonings and just use a couple teaspoons of taco seasoning. Just keep the lime juice as a base. Sauce is adapted from AllRecipes.com. Dieters can skip the batter and just grill the fish, but personally I think it's best pan-fried with a crunchy coating. Because c'mon, everything is better fried.
1 lb. walleye fillets
Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
Vegetable oil for frying
1 lime, juiced
1 Tbls. olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 cup flour
1 cup beer
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayo
1 lime, juiced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 teaspoon minced capers
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
Taco fixings (Corn tortillas, salsa, shredded cabbage, chopped cilantro, chopped tomato, extra lime wedges)
In a small bowl, mix juice of one lime, cumin, chili powder, olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Place fish in a shallow dish and pour lime juice mixture over it; let sit for at least 15 minutes (or refrigerate in marinade for a couple hours).
Meanwhile, mix up sauce ingredients and set aside.
Mix flour and beer in shallow dish with 1 teaspoon salt. Heat veg oil in a cast iron pan until the oil surface shimmers. Dip the marinated fish in the beer batter, then carefully place fish in hot oil. Fry until golden, a couple minutes on each side. Remove and drain on paper towels.