It’s a very rare occasion that I fry something in my kitchen – I rarely pan or shallow fry, let alone deep fry. When I do, it causes quite a stir among my family prompting all to voice their thoughts about it. Among the musings, nobody ever comments, “It smells like the Kern County Fair in here,” which is my only thought when I smell something fried. A carnival, a county fair, anything similar that occurs in early fall with live country music, animal showings and fried everything. Of course none of that is likely happening this year, and I haven’t been to one in over 20 years, at least. But, proof that food memories are STRONG!
Anyone who knows me well knows my favorite food is a taco – almost any kind of taco, but I have a soft spot for fish and shrimp tacos. 80% of the time, I will choose the healthier grilled version over anything fried. But, because I’m not a complete fool, I will order the delicious, crispy, lightly battered fish taco when the mood strikes, which usually happens on vacation. And last week, after a crazy change of plans while on a trip to Idaho and Montana, we ended back home after just 2 days of being away. Sadly, the terrible fires across the West are resulting in smoky skies and hazardous air conditions several states away. We were fortunate enough to quickly change plans and head back to the Bay Area, where for the first time in almost 30 days, the air quality is trending safer and headed its way to moderate levels – something to celebrate, indeed!
Instead of cooking last week in our rented, lakeside Montana house (I was so excited to do dishes staring at the lake!), I was back in my kitchen meal planning like any other week. I love my kitchen so this isn’t a problem, I just needed a change in mindset. My new menu included fish tacos using wild Alaskan cod- a great mild fish that flakes easily when cooked with a drizzle of olive oil and a little taco seasoning. As tasty and easy as this meal is, it just wasn’t going to cut the sting of missing out on our adventure. I decided frying the fish was the only way to change things up a bit. Since I only fry 2-3 times a year, this was a big deal. It was so easy and didn’t even require the dreaded vat of oil to deep fry! Just a ½ – ¾ inch of oil in a pan was enough to produce the lightest, crispy, fish tacos worthy of vacation food!
As for toppings, a quick slaw included some shredded green cabbage tossed with some chopped red onion, lime juice, chopped cilantro and sprinkling of kosher salt.
Pico de Gallo was a timely cooking assignment for my high schooler, so we enjoyed that on top along with a spicy sauce that we use on everything – a combination of plain Greek yogurt, sour cream, lime juice, salt and adobo sauce (liquid from canned chipotle peppers) or even easier, a good squeeze of Sriracha.
Easy, delicious, not one bit healthy, but totally worth it. Only regrets included the stove cleanup after dinner and house still smelling like the county fair in the morning.
Baja-style Fish Tacos with Spicy Lime Crema
These light and crispy fish tacos are such a treat. A simple cabbage slaw and a combination of yogurt and sour cream kicked up with a little spice, make for the most satisfying, vacation worthy meal.
- 2 lbs cod, cut into pieces roughly 1 inch wide
- 1½ cups flour
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
- 3-4 shakes hot sauce Cholula Chipotle is my favorite
- 12 oz light beer I used Corona
Spicy Lime Crema
- ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
- ½ cup sour cream
- 1 lime, squeezed
- adobo sauce from canned chipotle peppers or Sriracha sauce works great, too
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 2 cups shredded green or red cabbage
- ¼ cup cilantro, roughly chopped
- ¼ cup red onion, finely chopped
- 1 lime, squeezed
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- lime wedges
- ½ cup fresh pico de gallo
- 12 flour or corn tortillas, warmed
Combine ingredients for crema in a small bowl and set aside. Adjust seasoning to your level of desired spiciness. If you like it extra spicy, finely chop up a canned chipotle pepper and add to the mixture.
In a medium bowl, combine ingredients for cabbage slaw in a bowl and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk all dry ingredients for the batter. While whisking, slowly add the beer, followed by the hot sauce and thoroughly mix until fully combined and no lumps remain. Add fish pieces to the batter and coat evenly.
Prepare a sheet pan with paper towels. In a large Dutch oven, heat about ½ – ¾" of vegetable oil to 350°. When the oil is hot, carefully place a few pieces in the oil and cook till golden, about 2-3 minutes on each side. Place fried fish on paper towels and sprinkle with a little kosher salt. Repeat with remaining fish, adjusting the temperature as needed to maintain 350° temperature.
Fill warm tortillas with fish, slaw, crema and toppings. Enjoy every single spicy, crispy bite!