The tacos that I ate growing up were pretty simple but always refreshingly tasty: flour or corn tortillas, refried pinto beans, grated cheese, ground beef or chicken, black olives, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers. With three kids in the family, guacamole wasn’t a popular item and my Mother generally served plain freshly diced tomatoes rather than Salsa. The ingredients always varied slightly-often depending on what was in the kitchen-but one thing I never had until I was in college was a Fish taco. I’m sure anyone from the West Coast will find this shocking, but I just don’t think its a very popular item on the South Shore of Massachusetts (We stick with Lobster Rolls).
The first fish taco I had was late night one weekend when I was living in the East Village, from Snack Dragon Taco Shack, right down the street from No Malice Palace on 3rd Street. My experience was eye-opening. I was a firm believer that fish does not belong in a tortilla. It does.
So when I was browsing through the (orignal) Gourmet Cookbook looking for something Summer-y and light but still satisfying for dinner, this recipe bounced out at me (and it even got a hot pink sticky tab). This is not a recipe for classic Baja fried fish tacos in soft tortillas, instead, it is a much lighter filling with a crispy shell.
Fish in Crispy Tacos with Avocado and Tropical Fruit Salsa
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook
Serves 4 to 6
Gourmet recommends using Red Snapper, which I did, but if you can’t find it, any of the following fish will work: grouper, yelloweye rockfish, onaga (Hawaiiian red snapper), catfis, shark, or mahimahi.
About 6 cups canola or vegetable oil for deep-frying taco shells (I used much much less and just lightly fried the tortillas)
12 taco shells
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
freshly ground black pepper
2 lbs red snapper fillets, skinned and cut into 1-inch pieces (I left the skin on)
6 scallions, chopped
2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, finely chopped
3 cups arugula leaves or watercress sprigs, coarse stems discarded, leaves torn into bit-sized pieces
Accompaniment: Avocado and Tropical Fruit Salsa
Heat 2 inches (or less, as I did) oil in a 4-quart saucepan over moderately high heat. Fry tacos shells 2 at a time, turning occasionally, until a shade darker, about 1 minute. Transfer to paper towels to drain and sprinkle with salt.
To make dressing, whisk together juice, 3 tablespoons olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste in a medium bowl.
Pat fish dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Add scallions and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add fish and cook, stirring occasionally, until just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat, add chipotles, and gently toss with fish to combine.
Toss arugula with dressing and salt and pepper to taste. Fill taco shells with fish mixture and salad and top with salsa.
Avocado and Tropical Fruit Salsa
Makes about 3 cups
2 cups finely diced tropical fruit, such as kiwi, pineapple, mango, and papaya.
2 California avocados, pitted, peeled, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 serrano or jalapeño chile, seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste
Gently toss together all ingredients in a bowl.