Why has it taken me so long to embrace the fish taco? It is nothing short of genius, especially when you’re a member of a local fishermen’s coop. Basically how it works is this: whatever leftover fish you have, throw it into a taco with whatever vegetables you have. Seriously. Not only that, but it tastes fresh and healthy and not even a little bit lazy. Here’s how we’ve been doing fish tacos lately, though I'd imagine there are about as many variations as there are fish in the sea.
1 package corn tortillas
½ lb. leftover fish or pieces for frying
¼ head of cabbage, finely shredded
¼ red onion, thinly sliced
Whole cilantro leaves
½ cup mayo
Juice of ½ lime
½ shallot, chopped
½ jalapeño, minced, seeds removed
1 Tbsp. fresh herbs like dill, oregano, parsley
¼ tsp. dried cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
First, I get my vegetables ready—in this case, shredded cabbage, thinly sliced red onion, and cilantro leaves. I keep the cilantro leaves separate from the herbs in the dressing because people either love cilantro or hate it. This way, you can either pile it on (yes, yes, yes!) or leave it out at your own discretion. Then I make the sauce, which is similar to that creamy salad dressing recipe I gave you earlier this summer. In fact, I’ll often just doctor that if I have some around. If not, just whisk the mayo with lime juice and add the chopped shallot, jalapeño, herbs, spices, salt, and pepper. I like it heavy on the dill. Taste it and once you get the flavor you like, you can thin it with milk or buttermilk, thicken it with more mayo, or just leave it alone. If you should find yourself with too much sauce, it also makes a great dressing for coleslaw.
Next, the fish. We really like pollock in our tacos, though we’ve also enjoyed haddock and hake (aka merluza). Sometimes we use leftover fish and other times I’ll deep fry some for the occasion and let the children have homemade fish sticks while the adults flake theirs into tacos. (The children have yet to take to the taco, but I’ll break them down eventually.) For batter, I either coat the fish pieces in buttermilk or plain yogurt thinned with milk and dredge them in cornmeal, or make a beer batter with ¾ cup flour, ¼ cup cornstarch, and enough beer to make a batter of a reasonable consistency. Then I drink the remaining ¾ bottle of beer to make the frying go faster. You want the oil hot (375°F) so the fish comes out light and crispy, not sodden. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt.
When you’re on your last batch of fish, wrap a stack of corn tortillas in a damp paper towel and heat the whole thing in the microwave on medium-low for a minute. Flake the fish into bite-sized pieces. Assembly, to be done individually at the table, is just a matter of taking two tortillas, making a small pile of cabbage, onion, cilantro, and fish down the center, and applying sauce. Don’t be too stingy with the sauce—you’ll want at least a tablespoon on there. It’s a pretty healthy meal overall.
By the way, Cape Ann Fresh Catch is accepting new members, so if you’ve been eager to try out local delivery of fresh Gloucester-caught fish, now’s your chance. They have a fillet option now so you don’t have to lug home a whole fish and fillet it yourself if you don’t want to. I’ve opted for the pre-filleted share myself since I already have enough fish bones in my freezer to keep us in chowder for five years straight.
Cabbage, red onion, cilantro: Waltham Fields Community Farm, Waltham, MA
Dill, parsley, oregano: Neighbor’s garden, Waltham, MA
Fish: Cape Ann Fresh Catch, Gloucester, MA
Buttermilk: Kate’s Homemade Butter, Old Orchard Beach, ME
Corn tortillas: Cinco de Mayo, Lynn, MA (via Russo’s)