An Outdoor View: Fish tacos

Fish tacos are a go-to meal at the Palmer house. As chief chef, I’ve made them with freshly cooked halibut, and I’ve made them with leftover salmon. I’ve made them healthy, and I’ve made them decadent.

At 4 p.m. Tuesday, when I realized that I hadn’t even thought about dinner, fish tacos came to mind. I pulled a small package of halibut from the freezer and put it in a bowl of cold water to thaw. A couple of hours later, I started making dinner.

First came a salsa verde, or green sauce. Salsa verde’s fresh flavor and citric edge go well with fish. In the blender went two tomatillos and a small jalapeño pepper. My wife doesn’t like much heat, so I removed the seeds and veins from the pepper. After those had puréed, I poured the salsa into a small bowl, and added a pinch of salt and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. For crunch, I stirred in about a tablespoon of chopped sweet onion. After tasting it, I added a pinch of sugar.

I should mention here that I rarely cook from recipes, but mainly by taste. Recipes give me ideas, but I prefer to cook with the aid of my own senses. If you’re not doing this, give it a try.

Next, in a bowl went a large spoonful of sour cream and a small spoonful of mayonnaise. After thinning this mixture with a little milk, I poured it into a plastic squeeze bottle, shook it until it was well mixed, and that was that.

I then shredded some green cabbage for crunch, shredded some pepper jack cheese for tang, chopped a little cilantro for garnish, and the fixin’s were done.

Next I put ½ inch of peanut oil in a small frying pan on the stove to heat while I prepared the fish. I cut the fish into strips, about ¾ inches square and 2-3 inches long.

In one of those plastic bags that grocery stores use for produce, I poured a couple of tablespoons of rice flour, and added about a teaspoon of spices and herbs. I seldom use the same spice/herb combination. This time, I used chili powder, ground coriander, ground cumin and ground oregano. Sometimes, I include paprika, lemon pepper, garlic powder and cayenne powder. For herbs, I sometimes use dried dill weed or ground thyme.

In a small bowl, I then beat an egg with a little cold water, then added a teaspoon or so of the same spices I had added to the flour.

Finally, I poured a layer of Panko bread crumbs onto a dinner plate, and added more of the same spices.

Breading the fish is a three-step process. I dropped all the fish into the bag with the flour/spice/herb mix, then shook and turned the bag until all the pieces were coated. Then, one piece at a time, I dipped the fish in the egg wash with a fork, let it drain for a moment, then dropped it on the Panko plate. There, with the help of a teaspoon, I coated the fish on all sides with Panko, then put the pieces aside on a plate to await cooking.

By that time I’d finished breading the fish, the oil was at 375 degrees and ready. I cooked the pieces three at a time to avoid crowding them. When golden brown, I turned them with tongs. The small pieces were done in about one minute. When done, I sprinkled salt on them and put them on a brown paper bag to drain. When the second batch was done, we were ready to assemble tacos.

One of the fun parts about tacos is that you get to make your own. If you want more or less of something, you’re in control.

Sue and I heated our tortillas on top of the gas burner. After laying a row of fish down the center the tortilla, we added cabbage, salsa, sour cream, pepper jack cheese and cilantro. As usual, the tacos were great.

Fish tacos are easy to make and a treat to eat. I can’t imagine a finer ending for a fish.

Les Palmer can be reached at les.palmer@rocketmail.com.

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