“How would you feel about cod?” I asked, looking at the market’s specials.
“Go for it,” she replied. “Crispy?”
Then, before I’d had a chance to reply, “Oh! Let’s try the cod the way we did that one time with the beer batter and crackers, then break it apart as the base for fish tacos!”
I may have smirked a little. “So batter and bread the fish, and then put it inside a tortilla?”
We were using iMessage, so she couldn’t punch me, but she did stick out her tongue. Or at least her typing indicated she did.
I liked the idea of fish tacos–I always like the idea of fish tacos–but thought there might be a way to let a little more of the fish’s flavor come through. But lots of Californian fish tacos are made with breaded fish. Many chicken sandwiches are made with breaded chicken. And no Bayou restaurant would serve a Po’ Boy made with unbreaded shrimp. There are mysteries in the universe, I guess.
I picked up the fish, along with a pineapple (also a weekly special) and some other vegetables. If we were having fish tacos, we were going to do it right.
By the time her train arrived, I had assembled salsa and slaw to accompany the fish. We detoured on the way home to look at holiday lights; I would have shown her photographs of them, but my phone had crashed in the middle of the running route where I’d seen them. While she tried on some new clothes that had arrived in the mail, I set to preparing the fish–a bit of a risky proposition, considering that the fashion show was a lovely distraction from a skillet skimmed with hot oil.
The slaw was a little wetter than I meant it to be, and so the tacos were a little sloppier. Still, we both had seconds, so the mess didn’t seem to deter our enjoyment.
A drive to see Christmas lights, a fashion show, and–in her words–“freaking awesome, exquisite” fish tacos. Not a bad night in the suburbs.
Crispy Cod Tacos with Pineapple Salsa and Terrific Slaw
For the salsa:
2 cups pineapple (fresh is best, but canned will do)
1/2 red pepper
jalapeño pepper to taste (I used about half a teaspoon)
1/2 tsp salt
Dice the pineapple into pieces about 1/2-inch on a side; remove membrane and seeds from the pepper and dice it the same size; peel and seed the cucumber and dice it that way, too. Remove membrane and seeds from the jalapeño and dice it very finely. Combine all, and the salt, and let rest about an hour before serving.
For the slaw:
Use this “copycat” recipe, which seems just as good as KFC’s, even if you can’t get the cabbage shredded as finely as they do. Or just stop at the Colonel’s on your way home from the market, trying not to let it rattle you when the drive-through clerk asks if you’re sure you don’t want any chicken with your slaw.
For the fish:
3/4 lb cod fillet (or other white fish)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
1 tbsp milk
12 stone-ground wheat crackers
1/2 cup vegetable oil
tortillas (flour or corn)
1 avocado, mashed
2 tbsp sour creme (if there’s some left in a container in the back of the fridge; otherwise, don’t bother)
Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet.
Cut the fish into strips approximately an inch wide–narrower in the thickest parts of the filet so they’ll cook in approximately the same time as thinner strips.
Assemble three shallow bowls in order approaching the skillet. In the farthest, combine flour, salt, and Old Bay; in the middle, beat the egg and stir in the milk; crush the crackers into fine meal and put them in the final (and closest) bowl.
Dip each strip each bowl in turn–flour, egg, cracker–shaking off any excess before the next bowl, and ending in the skillet for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown and delicious. Remove strips to a draining rack in a warm oven until all are cooked.
For the tacos:
Warm the tortillas in a dry skillet.
Spread a thin layer of avocado and/or sour creme on each tortilla, then top with fish, slaw, and salsa as desired.
Serves 2, with a leftover portion for a lucky somebody’s lunch