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A&E >  Food

Pan-fried fish good on tacos

Susan M. Selasky Detroit Free Press

As many Christians observe Lent, they may discover that going meatless on Fridays – an act of penance – can get a little boring. Coming up with different takes on fish isn’t always easy.

For something different, try fish tacos. They’re easy and fun for kids, too.

Fish tacos are simply floured, battered and pan-fried pieces of fish nestled in a warm tortilla.

They’re seasoned with a little kick of spicy cayenne pepper and chili powder. The batter is thin and doesn’t puff up when fried. (If that’s what you prefer, mix the batter with club soda or beer.)

You can fry these in a skillet instead of deep-frying. Pan-frying eliminates the need for heating up a mess of oil and having that deep-fried smell hanging around.

Once pan-fried, keep them warm in the oven, where they will stay crisp. They also can be made in advance and recrisped in the oven.

These are even great as a leftover. I find it best to reheat them in a toaster oven.

The cabbage adds a nice crunch when you bite into these. You can doctor up the cabbage, too, with a splash of vinegar and some salt and black pepper. And if you don’t like cabbage, try some chopped romaine.

The cilantro tartar is a different take on traditional tartar sauce that gets some heat from minced jalapeno peppers. If you chop the jalapeno with the ribs and seeds, be prepared – that’s where most of the heat lies.

This recipe uses smallish flour tortillas, but you can use corn tortillas if you like. With either one, a good way to heat them is to microwave them. Place several on a microwave-safe dish, cover with paper towel and wrap with plastic wrap. Microwave 1 to 1  1/2 minutes. Remove from the microwave and let sit a minute before removing the plastic. When you do remove the plastic, do it so the steam escapes away from you.

Here are a few other ideas for fish tacos:

If you don’t want to batter and fry the fish, bake it. Brush with a little oil, season as desired and bake in a 400-degree oven. Bake 10 minutes for every inch of thickness.

Consider using shrimp in place of fish. Bake or sauté shrimp until they’re opaque. Serve with the same cilantro tartar sauce.

Try different sauces. Top the tacos with sour cream mixed with lime zest, cilantro and lime juice. Make an avocado sauce by pureeing ripe avocado with lime juice and sour cream until it’s the consistency of a sauce. Drizzle over the fish.

Make pico de gallo. Mix chopped tomatoes, onions, cilantro, lime juice, a bit of olive oil and vinegar. Season with salt, pepper and a few pinches of sugar to taste. This goes well with any baked fish.

Fish Tacos with Cilantro Tartar Sauce

From and tested by Susan Selasky in the Detroit Free Press Test Kitchen. Use any firm fish for this recipe. Mahi-mahi and tilapia work well.

For the Cilantro Tartar:

1 cup low-fat mayonnaise

1/3 cup chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon lime juice

2 tablespoons capers, plus a little caper juice

1 small jalapeno pepper, minced (with seeds, if desired)

For the fish:

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds cod fillets

1 cup Drake’s Crispy Frymix (or favorite fish-fry mix)

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup oil for frying

12 6-inch flour tortillas

To serve:

2 cups finely shredded cabbage

4 green onions, thinly sliced

1 avocado, halved, pitted, diced

To make the tartar: In a small bowl, combine all the tartar ingredients. Set aside. You can make this one day in advance.

To make the fish: Rinse and pat dry the cod fillets well. Cut fillets into 2- by 1-inch pieces. Set aside.

Mix the fry mix with 1/2 to 3/4 cup water. The batter should be very thin, like pancake batter. On a shallow dish or pie plate, mix the flour, cayenne pepper, chili powder and salt and black pepper.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

When ready to fry, in a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. The oil should cover the bottom and come up at least 1/4 inch in the skillet.

Working in batches, dredge several pieces of fish in the flour mixture and then dip in the batter, allowing the excess batter to drip off.

Place in the hot oil and fry on all sides until browned, about 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet and place in the oven to keep the fish hot. Repeat with remaining fish.

Microwave the flour tortillas to warm.

To assemble, place some cabbage on each tortilla. Top with 2 to 3 pieces of fish and a dollop of tartar. Garnish with green onions and diced avocado.

Yield: 12 tacos

Approximate nutrition per taco with Cilantro Tartar: 290 calories, 15 grams fat (2 grams saturated, 45 percent fat calories), 15 grams protein, 27 grams carbohydrate, 29 milligrams cholesterol, 3 grams dietary fiber, 644 milligrams sodium.

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