Something fishy

Posted by Anita on 06.22.08 4:30 PM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**One day last week, I looked up from my work and was stunned to see it was nearly 2:30 in the afternoon. The day had screamed away from me, and — not surprisingly — I was ravenous.

Local food choices near my office are pretty bleak, so I try to eat pescitarian when I can’t determine the source of my lunchtime chow. It’s an easy choice to make, since the mall near my office is home to one of the Bay Area’s only outposts of Rubio’s, a SoCal chain of Baja-style joints. Their #1 combo plate — two fish tacos and a side of frijoles — makes a reliable lunch in a pinch.

Usually, that is.

Unfortunately, the tacos I got that afternoon were pretty bad: The tortillas were falling apart, and the fish was smelly and dark. I pulled the offending meat out and ate my tacos veggie style, resolving to remember to bring my lunch the next day.

Rather than put me off, the whole experience just made me crave fish tacos — real ones, good ones — all the more. So come Saturday, we stopped by Shogun Fish at the Ferry Plaza farmers market and picked up a nice fillet of black rockfish caught off the Mendocino coast. I figured we’d be out of luck for local cabbage, but we found a gorgeous head over at Tierra‘s stand, where we also picked up a bag of super-smoky chipotles. Add in a pack of Rancho Gordo tortillas and a tub of Primavera salsa, and we were good to go.

Even if you think you don’t like seafood, a Baja-style fish taco is pretty easy to love. There’s not really anything mysterious about them: Batter-fried fish, wrapped in a corn tortilla, topped with shredded cabbage, salsa, and creamy white sauce.

To drink? Well, there isn’t a much better local alternative that good old Anchor Steam, brewed about 2 miles from our house. We used it in the fish batter, too, along with Guisto‘s flour, Stonehouse olive oil, and a Marin Sun Farms egg white. The traditional salsa blanca combines equal parts Clover Organic sour cream and home-made mayonnaise (from the same local eggs and oil), spiced up with the Tierra chipotles.

The result: My favorite kind of summertime food — good ingredients, simply prepared.

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**

Baja-Style Crispy Fish Tacos
adapted from The River Cottage Cookbook

- fish:
1 large fillet of firm, white fish (about 12 ounces)
scant 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1T olive oil
up to 6oz beer, as needed
1 egg white
oil, for frying

One Local Summer 2008- white sauce:
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sour cream
1 or 2 chipotle chiles (canned or dry)

- to serve:
corn tortillas
1/4 head of cabbage, shredded fine
prepared salsa or taco sauce
cilantro sprigs, if desired

Mix the flour with oil, then thin it with beer to the consistency of thick paint. Season with salt and pepper, and leave at room temperature for at least an hour while you prep your other ingredients.

Cut your fish into 1-1/2-inch strips, against the grain of the fillet. Season with salt and pepper on both sides, and set aside.

For the white sauce, combine the mayo and the sour cream. If using dry chipotles, soak them in hot water for 15-20 minutes until soft, then chop to a fine paste with kosher salt. For canned chipotles, a simple mashing will do. Add the chipotle paste, to taste, to the sour cream-mayo mixture; season with salt as needed.

Heat oil in a deep-sided kettle or dutch oven to 350°.

Whip the egg white until frothy, then fold into the rested fish batter. Dip the fish pieces in the batter, shaking off any excess, and gently lower them into the hot oil. (You may need to work in multiple batches to avoid crowding the pan; be careful not to allow the oil temperature to drop.) When golden brown, remove from the oil with a spider or slotted spoon. Place the fish on a wire rack over old newspaper while you fry the remaining pieces.

To serve, place a piece of fish in the center of a tortilla; top with white sauce, salsa, cilantro, and shredded cabbage as desired.

farmers markets, locavore, Mexican, One Local Summer



Comment by Laura

oh my god, I knew I should have bought rock fish at the market today. I’ve been searching for a good recipe for fish tacos because all the ones that we’ve tried have something that’s not quite right.

Fabulous local dinner! I’m going to steal for ours in Week 5. Forgery is the sincerest form of flattery, right?

Posted on 06.22.08 at 6:19PM

Comment by Anita

Absolutely! That’s one of the downsides to being in the southern latitudes… when you cook something gorgeous, it’s usually something that’s long gone from our markets already. Ah, well. That’s what bookmarks are for. :D

The rock fish we used wasn’t a perfect choice, truth be told, but Shogun’s other options were twice as expensive, and we thought they’d be wasted in beer batter. Next time, though, we’ll splurge.

Posted on 06.23.08 at 7:18AM

Comment by natalie

mmm, fish tacos are my favorite! i’ve only been to san diego a few times, but i always make it a point to get fish tacos when i go! there’s a place (don’t know the name unfortunately) that was next to one of the hotels i stayed at once before. just some hole in the wall, that by far had the best fish tacos i’ve ever had! it’s worth me flying all the way out west just to get some!! :) when i make mine, i do a wasabi aioli sauce! (darn, i just made these last week, but since seeing your post, i’m craving them all over again!!)

Posted on 06.23.08 at 9:26AM

Comment by PaniniKathy

I’m definitely bookmarking this to try soon. I know what you mean about Rubio’s – can be a little hit or miss. But I do love fish tacos and yours came out gorgeous!

Posted on 06.23.08 at 11:21AM

Comment by [eatingclub vancouver] js

This is what I want for dinner today. I’ve been so unsatisfied with my meals for the past week.

Looks absolutely gorgeous and perhaps this will get me out of my food doldrums.

Posted on 06.23.08 at 11:31AM

Comment by annie

So, What kind of fish is best?

Halibut? Cod?

Posted on 06.23.08 at 12:59PM

Comment by dawn

I love fish tacos. And I live in a seacoast place and there are NO fish tacos to be found! I miss the ones I got in Cali, laguna beach area.
Yours look amazing.

Posted on 06.23.08 at 1:04PM

Comment by Rachelle ~ "Mommy? I'm Hungry!"

Living in San Diego, is the best, because of the fish tacos! I’ve only started loving them within the past 1-2 yrs and I can’t get enough of them. Yours look great!

Posted on 06.23.08 at 1:31PM

Comment by Paula

Yum – yum -yum! Those fish tacos looks terrific!

Posted on 06.23.08 at 3:27PM

Comment by Joy the Baker

ok- I now instantly have a fish taco craving. So not fair!! These look delicious! Thanks so much for sharing!

Posted on 06.23.08 at 3:43PM

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Posted on 06.24.08 at 4:07AM

Comment by cassie

i just finished eating breakfast, but now i’m already thinking about lunch. for immediate gratification i’ll stop by our favorite taco cart, but sometime soon i’ll attempt your recipe. looks sooo good!

Posted on 06.24.08 at 10:27AM

Comment by Nate

Yours looks so much better than Rubio’s. You really did ‘em the right way!

Posted on 06.24.08 at 3:50PM

Comment by The Downtown Boutique

Oh! We have Baja Fresh here, and I LOVE their fish tacos! I have been looking for a great recipe for them, and I think I’m going to have to try yours! Thanks for sharing!


Posted on 06.24.08 at 5:24PM

Comment by bc

They look wonderful!!

I remember back when Rubio’s was only a handful of locations in San Diego.

Posted on 06.25.08 at 5:53PM

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