I had a blast working with Alaska Seafood to conceive a dish for the Foodbuzz Blogger Fest so when they reached out to ask if I’d like to participate in an Alaska Fish Taco contest for bloggers I was game. The contest started back in February (though I’ve been a bit late to the party due to work travel and other commitments) and will be continuing through May with a range of challenges all centered on developing new fish taco recipes. I enjoy challenges with this because although I eat fish tacos at restaurants all the time (Taco Joint has a taco with Victoria Beer battered tilapia garnished with a creamy-arbol cabbage slaw I love), I’ve never actually made them at home. In fact, tacos themselves rarely make the menu in my kitchen. I guess I’ve progressed little beyond the days of the boxed taco kits we got when I was a kid.
For my first one out of the gate I wanted to share my best battered fish taco recipe. Of the challenges on the list I was looking forward to this the most because I’m not going to lie, I love frying things. If calories were no object I think I would fry every darn thing I put in my mouth. Call it overkill, but I’m a bit addicted to the crunch and the way frying can keep meat and fish so moist inside. It is also one of those cooking techniques that used to intimidate me so I find the fact that I’ve now managed to master the oil and the fry thermometer to be a minor victory.
As my fish of choice, I selected Wild Alaska Black Cod. Despite its name, it’s actually not a true cod and depending on your supermarket or fish market may also be referred to as Butterfish or Sablefish. It’s a white fish and surprisingly rich, flavorful and buttery thanks to its high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids. If you like the richness of something like salmon or tuna, it’s a great choice.
Since it is March and the season of Spring Break vacations and island getaways, my recipe was inspired by island fare and in particular, the flavors of Hawaii. After tasting the fish on its own (lightly cooked) I thought it would pair beautifully with chunks of sweet pineapple, crunchy macadamia nuts and spicy ginger.
Of the three, I decided I wanted ginger to be the star flavor. It was incorporated into two aspects of the dish. First, I worked it into my tempura batter for my fish using ginger beer instead of the club soda I typically use. I figured it would infuse the fish itself with a lot of flavor, while still maintaining the lightness of the coating.
Fresh grated ginger also went into a mayo-based dressing for a slaw to accompany my fish, with some lime juice, white wine vinegar, and honey balancing out its flavor.
And as for the pineapple and macadamia nuts, they came into play in the form of small cubes of caramelized pineapple and crushed nuts for garnish. I really enjoyed the sweetness because it balanced out the bitter cabbage in the slaw and the nuts played up the crunch on the outside of the fish. Together the flavors made for a delicious taco that was a little bit sweet and a lot savory, perfect if you don’t generally go for spicy food. If I cannot make it to the islands this year, this taco is as close a substitute you can get.
Serves 4 (2 tacos per person)
-1/2 cup mayo
-1 teaspoon grated ginger
-2 teaspoons lime juice
-1 tablespoon rice vinegar
-2 teaspoon honey
-Salt to taste plus 1/8 teaspoon for tempura batter
-Freshly ground black pepper to taste
-1 1/3 cup slaw mix
-2/3 cup chopped pineapple
-1 tablespoon brown sugar
-1 cup rice flour
-1 cup ginger beer
-1/2 pound black cod filet, cut into 1 ½ inch square pieces
-8 corn tortillas, warmed in a dry skillet or the microwave
-1/3 cup roasted macadamia nuts, chopped
In a small food processor (or alternatively using a bowl and spatula) combine together the mayo, grated ginger, lime juice, rice vinegar, and honey. Add salt and pepper to taste. Reserve 2 tablespoons of dressing to drizzle over tacos and add the remainder to the slaw mix. Set aside.
Add chopped pineapple and brown sugar to a skillet. Cook over medium heat for 5-7 minutes until brown sugar has melted and the juice has evaporated. Remove from the heat.
In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, pour enough oil to fill the pan about a third of the way. Heat over medium heat until a deep-frying thermometer inserted in the oil reaches 350 degrees F. (If you don’t have a thermometer a cube of bread will brown in about 1 minute.)
To make the tempura batter, stir together the flour, ginger beer, and remaining salt in a shallow pan or dish until well combined. Dip fish pieces in the batter until evenly coated on all sides, shaking off any additional batter. Repeat with remaining fish pieces a few at a time.
Add to the hot oil and cool until golden on all sides and fish flakes. Remove from pot and drain on paper towels. Repeat until all fish has been dipped in batter and cooked.
To assemble tacos, take a warm tortilla and top with slaw followed by crispy fish, pineapple, macadamia nuts and a drizzle of remaining sauce. Serve immediately.