Friday, May 31, 2013


As odd as it might sound, I've never had a fish taco.  I like fish.  I like tacos. Yet the two words used together were just a turn-off to me.

I remember when 710 came back from a work trip in San Diego 15+ years ago raving about them. I couldn't be swayed. Somethings just sound wrong, even if they taste great.

A local place makes them, not they've ever been ordered by me and I did stumble upon a few summer recipes that I will admit, made me intrigued.

Since the husband likes them, and I'm alllllll about pleasing him, what is a boy to do?

I went with Catfish Tacos with Chipotle Slaw.  Though I substituted Talapia for Catfish.  Again, somethings just don't sound good - like fish with whiskers.  Talapia held up just fine.

Except for the chipotles, cabbage and fish, I think I had everything else on hand in the house, so shopping was a breeze.  Prep time isn't horrible, but it dirties a few dishes, but not a lot, and what there is was easily cleaned as you go.

1 teaspoon minced chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup very thinly sliced white cabbage
1 cup very thinly sliced red cabbage
1 green onion, white and tender green parts, thinly sliced
1 large egg
2 teaspoons hot sauce
1 cup panko bread crumbs, plus more if needed
¼ cup all-purpose flour
8-10 ounces catfish talapia fillets
½ cup vegetable oil
Four or five 10-inch flour tortillas

The above picture is missing the salt and egg.  Oops.

While I was at my fish monger, I was trying to convert pounds into ounces and the monger looks at me and goes, "It doesn't look like you have to worry about portion control".

Was he trying to be nice?  Hit on me?  Either way, it wasn't for control ("now I gotta lot!), it was to go with a recipe.

....and then I headed over to pick-up Chocolate and Peanut Butter ice cream.   Portion control, my ass!

Making the Slaw
In a large bowl, combine the chipotle, mayonnaise, honey, lime juice, ¼ teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper; stir well to mix. Add both cabbages and the green onion, and toss and stir to combine and coat the vegetables well with the chipotle mayonnaise. Set aside.

Prepare the Coating
In a medium to large, shallow bowl, whisk together the egg with a splash of water, a pinch of salt and the hot sauce. Pour the panko and flour onto two separate large plates. Pat the fillets dry and sprinkle all over with salt and pepper.

Coat the Fish
Dredge the fish in the flour and knock off the excess. Dip the fish into the egg to coat it completely, then coat it thoroughly with the panko. Place the fillets on a platter as they are breaded.

Fry the Fish
Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat and add the vegetable oil. When the oil shimmers and is very hot, slip the breaded fish into the pan and brown it on one side, about 3 minutes. Turn and brown the other side, another 3 minutes. Transfer the fish to paper towels to drain.

(Full disclosure, we have never fried anything in more than a tablespoon or two of oil.  This was a lot for us. I felt like we were one of Paula Deen's gay sons)

Cook the Slaw
Pour off the oil in the pan (pouring it into a metal can in the sink works well) and return the pan to the heat. Dump the slaw mixture into the pan and toss for about 1 minute to warm it up. Don't cook it so long that it completely wilts. You want it to have a little crunch. Return the slaw to the bowl so that it doesn't overcook.

This sounded weird to us - warm slaw.  But it worked beautifully with the dish.

Warm the tortillas wrapped in microwavable plastic wrap until soft and pliable, 20-30 seconds. Lay the fish down in the center of the tortillas and top it with the slaw. Wrap in the sides and bottom and eat these fish tacos with your hands. Use lots of napkins.

The 10" tortillas were fine, but large. Too large, in fact.  Slicing them in half and cutting the fish worked better. I tried it both ways, so I know.

Believe it or not, this recipe only serves two. Allegedly.  I got about .9lbs of talapia and we had leftovers - not a lot, but maybe enough for one serving - so it might serve two really hungry guys...or three normal ones.

If there is a problem it's this:  you end up with way too much left over cabbage - both red and green - and you use only one chipotle.  So unless you have something else to make with them in the next few days, it can seem wasteful.

I'll make home made coleslaw with the cabbage and maybe I will incorporate another chili into it.  Who knows.

But the textures and tastes of the dish were great.  710 felt more heat than I did. While preparing, I could have used more hot sauce or chipotle (or both).  It had great flavoring, but don't let the "heat" thing scare you off.

Try it, you'll like it.  We'll keep this one going, as we liked it so much. It's a little to informal for most guest events, but for closer friends who don't mind getting a little messy (really, not that much), it's a good dish.

Song by:  Throwing Muses


Anonymous said...

This is right in my wheel house, my friend. I'm a native San Diegan. The place is called Rubio's, and back in the day it was called Rubio's Fish Tacos for... you guessed it.

I used to eat there all the time at SDSU since they had a location in the East Commons food court. Rubio's fish tacos are made with beer battered cod fillets and I know for a fact they're not as fancy as these.

But I'm curious to see what beer battered cod tastes like with your recipe. Thanks for posting this because it brought back some great memories.

wcs said...

The leftover chipotles can easily go into the freezer for later recipes. The tacos sound tasty; I've only had fish tacos once, in San Francisco. They were good.