Thursday, February 9, 2012

Andrea Chesman: Winter Fish Tacos

Every summer my brother spends a month fishing on Lake Champlain. His haul is impressive, and some of it winds up in my freezer — I think I just pulled the last bag out. The fish is known by the not-terribly-nice name of “crappie.”

Crappie is in the sunfish family and very popular among sport fishermen because it is delicious, with mild, sweet white flesh. Other names for crappie are strawberry bass, speckled bass, speckled perch, and calico bass. In Louisiana, I’ve been told, it is called sac-au-lait ("bag of milk"). But around here it is called crappie, so crappie for supper it is.

It was in the sunny climes of California that fish tacos with grilled fish were invented. This dish is typically accompanied by a sour cream and lime sauce, pickled red onions, and cabbage, which I think makes it perfect for whipping up in the middle of winter, as long as you skip the grill.

Winter Fish Tacos
Serves 6

In summer I would probably add cilantro to the fish marinade and sour cream sauce, but the dish is just fine without it. Fresh corn tortillas are the preferred wrap, but flour wrappers do fine, especially where fresh corn tortillas aren’t available.

Pickled Red Onion
1 small red onion, halved lengthwise, cut thinly into slivers
1/2 cup rice vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Dash of hot pepper sauce

Fish and Marinade
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 1/2 pounds fresh mahimahi or other white fish fillet

Sour Cream Sauce
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon (packed) finely grated lime peel
Pinch of salt
Dash of hot sauce

Tortillas and Garnishes
18 small flour or corn tortillas
2 cups shredded green cabbage

1. To make the pickled onion, combine all the ingredients in a small nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, transfer to a serving bowl, and let cool.

2. To prepare the fish, combine the oil and lime juice in a large shallow glass baking dish. Add the fish, and turn to coat in the marinade. Set aside, and let marinate for 15 minutes.

3. To prepare the sour cream sauce, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and stir until well combined. Set aside.

4. Preheat a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Remove the fish from the marinade, and place in the hot pan, skin side down. Cook the fish for 4 minutes on the first side, then flip and drizzle with the marinade. Cook on the second side for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Let rest for a few minutes, then flake the fish with a fork.

5. To warm the tortillas, stack them between damp paper towels and microwave for about 60 seconds.

6. Serve the warm tortillas, fish, cabbage, pickled onions, sour cream sauce, cabbage, and salsa in separate bowls, and allow the diners to assemble their own tacos.

From Recipes from the Root Cellar ©2010 Andrea Chesman. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

Melanie Daryl said...

Mmm, I prefer burritos, but the idea of some fish tacos sounds pretty delicious, whether it's winter or summer. Still, catching and cooking them fresh does seem more satisfying!