Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Fish tacos, or a Very Stiven Wednesday

I had to dig deep into the archives to discover the last time that Meg's sister, Tessa, helped us out at a WeDine session, and it turns out it was April of 2008. (See here, for our delicious vegetarian pizza).

Wow! First of all, it's great to even have an archive of our good times cooking, interesting culinary creations and tasty recipes. Secondly, it's lovely to host recurring guests to share the fun with! Our second special guest was Meg's dad, Jim, who was very excited to be one of the rare guy visitors to WeDine.

Oh, and he brought the beer! He'll certainly be invited back!

The fish tacos were concocted from a number of recipes found in Martha's Cooking School: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook, a great cookbook that was a present from my brother Ben last Chanukkah. That cookbook has brought us some great finds, including an awesome wiener schnitzel and this great duck with orange gastrique sauce.

This time, we deep-fried some fish (cod, but you could use any firm white fish) in a beer batter (Martha instructed us to use Negra Modelo for the batter, the dark beer featured above) and combined it with a delicious lemon-olive relish and thinly sliced radishes in a tortilla for an amazing fish taco. Martha's recipe (and Michelle and Alisha's skilled handling of the frying of the fish) made for a crispy, well-battered fish. It was just as good as any fish-and-chip take-away I've had!

Batter recipe

2 large eggs
1 cup Mexican dark lager, such as Negra Modelo
1 & 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tbsp coarse salt

For the fish:

vegetable oil, for frying
2 pounds skinless firm white fish, such as cod, haddock, fluke, orange roughy or scrod, cut into 3" by 3/4" pieces

Martha notes that this is a good batter for smaller pieces of fish and chicken, shrimp and ... onion rings! Mmm, that sounds good. Also, the beer batter makes for a lighter, crisper texture than a batter made with buttermilk (and is better for those with dairy issues, too), and the flavour of the beer comes through.


Whisk the eggs and beer together, and the flour and salt together, and then whisk the wet ingredients into the dry. Batter should be fairly thick and creamy. Cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes (up to 2 hours).

Pour 3 inches of oil into a large pot, at least 6 quarts (and preferably cast iron, but alas, in our case, not to be) and heat to 375 degrees F (on a deep-fry or candy thermometre) over medium heat. Allow it to heat up slowly.

Coat fish in batter (tongs come in handy here) and lower into oil. Fry until crust is golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Turn once or twice to ensure even cooking, and remove to a lined baking sheet to drain. A slotted spoon or spider is useful here to remove fish and skim excess bits of batter from the oil.

Repeat until all fish is cooked!

Our next component was the lemon-olive relish. Ingredients included:

8 lemons
extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, diced
1/4 cup + 2 tbsps sugar
4 ounces nicoise olives, pitted and chopped


Dice one of the lemons into 1/2 inch pieces, leaving the skin on.
Supreme the other eight lemons, removing the skin and pith and segmenting them.
Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat, cook the onion and diced lemon about 4 minutes.

Stir in the sugar and cook until it melts, approximately 30 seconds. Cool five minutes, then scrape into a medium bowl and add the lemon segments and olive pieces. Season with salt and pepper, and and stir gently to combine. Let cool 30 minutes before serving. Makes 2 cups.

The lemon-olive relish turned out particularly well, it was a great combination of flavours, salty, sweet and sour.

Here is the final dish: we dressed the tacos with the relish and finely-sliced radishes, and together with the crispy texture of the battered fish pieces, it was a great taco.

Next to it you see our slaw. It was meant to be a green papaya slaw, but there was nary a papaya to be found in the supermarket, whereas mangoes always seem to be plentiful. So we made the slaw with:

2 tbsps fish sauce
1 1/2 tbsps peanut oil
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tbsp + 1 tsp palm sugar (or brown sugar)
2 tbsp tiny dried shrimp (we had none)

which we combined in a large bowl. Then we added:

1 peeled and very finely sliced shallot
1 fresh Thai chile, thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 green papaya (we used not-too-ripe mango), julienned
1 peeled and julienned carrot

We let this stand for fifteen minutes and garnished with:

2 tbsp fresh mint leaves, torn
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup peanuts, crushed

Martha instructs to "taste and adjust seasoning with additional fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and chile, so there is a proper balance of hot, sour, salty and sweet."

It turned out really well, and worked well with the tacos (which I think needed a pretty bold side-dish to stand up to them). All in all, a great fusion of many flavours.

Then we made Tessa and Jim watch America's Next Top Model.

Poor Stivens. What did they do to deserve that?

At least they had memories of a tasty WeDine to sustain them!


moyrad said...

That batter was so light and crispy!!!
You can also use club soda but the beer adds some extra depth.

Such a fresh light flavours, I can't wait for us to have this on a hot summer day.

Meg Whetung said...

Laura, I'm so happy you posted this, 'cause I totally have to make these again. I'm in love with that lemon olive relish. So flavourful, interesting mix of textures and colours, the perfect foil to the fried fish.

Thanks for having my fams over! It's fun to see people's excitement at being let into the ritual (and the ritual includes models, so tough).