It’s good to avoid succumbing to holiday gluttony 24/7 so here’s a little something on the lighter side to add to the Fish on Fridays category. I always forget how good, healthy and easy fish tacos are until I make them and vow to do it more often.
They’re remarkably adaptable to any type of not-too-expensive fish you might find in your local market. You can use any kind of light fillet like sole, snapper, catfish or tilapia. I prefer saltwater species, but sometimes the freshwater farmed fish are more economical.
The textural contrast between lightly crispy fish, supple corn tortillas and soft avocado is a big part of this simple recipe’s success.
About 4 cups shredded cabbage
1 small carrot
2-3 green onions
1/2-1 Jalapeño chile
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Sugar, honey or agave nectar to taste (optional)*
Salt and pepper
1/2-3/4 lb. snapper, sole, tilapia or catfish
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/8-1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika or chipotle powder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil suitable for high heat cooking (like safflower or grapeseed)
8 corn tortillas
Garnish: cilantro leaves, avocado, lime wedges and your favorite salsa
Place cabbage in a bowl and sprinkle a bit of salt on it. Massage and squeeze it with your hands to help it release its liquid and wilt. Set it in a strainer over a bowl while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
Peel and shred the carrot with a grater or mandoline, slice the green onions (green and white parts), seed and chop the Jalapeño. Place all these ingredients in a small bowl and toss.
Whisk together garlic, lime juice and mayonnaise. Set aside
On a plate, mix together flour, salt, pepper and paprika or chipotle powder.
Squeeze excess liquid out of the cabbage and add it to the bowl with the carrots, onion and Jalapeño. Pour the mayonnaise-lime juice mixture over and toss. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add a little sugar, honey or agave nectar to balance (if desired).
Heat a heavy (cast iron if possible) pan over medium-high heat. Dredge the fish in the seasoned flour mixture, shaking off any excess. Add oil to pan, heat until shimmery and add fish to pan. Cook for about 2 minutes per side, carefully flipping only once, with a spatula. Meanwhile, heat the corn tortillas one-by-one in a heavy, dry pan, until soft and warm. Wrap them in a clean cloth as you go.
Serve the fish on a platter with the tortillas, slaw, cilantro, avocado, lime and salsa on the side, letting each diner assemble his or her own tacos.
*Note: I mention agave necter because it's thematically correct, already dissolved (unlike sugar) and is neutrally flavored (unlike honey). I wouldn't go out and buy it for this dish, but if you have some anyway...