An Outdoor View: New twists on fish and shrimp

New twists on fish and shrimp


Les Palmer

It happens now and then, and a few days ago, it happened again. I was overwhelmed by an urge to eat fish tacos.

Sadly, all the fish that had wintered in our freezer had been eaten. Not to be put off, I bought a fillet of Pacific cod at Safeway in Kenai.

I did all the usual stuff that I do when cooking white fish for a taco — the dusting with seasoned rice flour, the dipping in the seasoned egg wash, the rolling in the seasoned Panko, and the frying in peanut oil. I even used the usual soft flour tortillas and the usual shredded green cabbage. However, I veered off my usual path when it came to the sauces.

Fish dishes fairly plead for acid, and Mexican dishes want some heat, so I made a green chili sauce (salsa verde) that had both. It was just for the two of us, so what I put in the food processor was one jalapeno pepper, one serrano pepper, one tomatillo, a few sprigs of cilantro (stems and leaves), a tablespoon of fresh lime juice, and a pinch each of salt, cumin and coriander. From experience, I’ve found that removing the seeds from the peppers leaves a comfortable level of heat.

I often make salsa with raw peppers and tomatillos, but this time I roasted them under the boiler until they were lightly charred. Roasting makes them taste more mellow, less sharp.

My wife and I usually add a dollop of sour cream to our tacos and burritos. But for these fish tacos, I doctored up the sour cream with some mayonnaise, lemon zest, fresh lemon juice and a pinch of salt and pepper. I thinned this sauce with a little water and loaded it into a plastic squeeze bottle.

Sauces done, I was ready for battle. Assembling these tacos was simple. After heating flour “taco-size” tortillas in a frying pan, I added pieces of hot fish, salsa verde, cabbage, and the lemony sour cream. The delicious fish, the crunchy cabbage, the tangy heat of the salsa verde, and the creamy tartness of the sour cream made this dish a home run.

A couple of days later, while watching a rerun of “Heat Seekers” on TV, I saw something different being done with chili rellenos. The traditional chili rellenos is made by removing the skin and seeds from a poblano pepper, filling it with cheese, dipping it in batter and deep-frying it. Like peach cobbler with ice cream, these things are sinfully good, but you might as well just take them out of the oven and tape them to your belly, because that’s where they’re going.

But I digress. One of the restaurants on the TV show made a seafood-stuffed chili. What’s more, instead of battering and deep-frying it, they cooked it in the oven. I had never thought of doing this, but I found recipes for variations of it on the Internet. One used shrimp for filling; another used shrimp, bay scallops and calamari. One used Monterey Jack cheese, another, quesadilla cheese. I ended up using shrimp and Monterey Jack.

The hardest part of making this dish is roasting and skinning the peppers. I recommend watching a couple of YouTube videos on the subject, but eventually you just have to get in there and do it. After the first one, the rest will be easier.

My wife and I had seafood-stuffed chili rellenos for our Cinco de Mayo dinner this week. I cut the shrimp into ½-inch pieces, dusted it with cajun spices and lightly sauteed it. Next, I mixed the shrimp with grated cheese, stuffed it into the peppers and topped them with more grated cheese. After a few minutes in the oven, and after the cheese had melted, they were done. For a side dish, I heated up some canned black beans and pureed them. I finished the plates with a schmear of the beans, a spatter of red chili sauce, a squirt of lemony sour cream (above), a sprinkle of cilantro and queso fresca (Mexican fresh cheese), and served them with Margaritas. Another home run, according to my chief critic, my wife.

Everything in the above two dishes and sauces can be found in local stores and waters. What’s more, there is no closed season and no bag limit.

Les Palmer can be reached at

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