Friday, October 15, 2010

Blackened Fish Tacos

   If you've never had fish tacos I'm sure you are making the same face everyone makes before they eat them for the first time.  It's that "What are you on? Fish tacos?!?!" scrunched up incredulous face.  The first time I heard of fish tacos, I thought my mom was screwing with my head.  I envisioned a cheap Tex-Mex taco with ground beef that had been replaced with ground mystery fish.  I was so wrong.

   The first time I had fish tacos was in Costa Rica at a little road side bungalow in the Guanacaste province.  The side of the building had a brightly painted mural of tropical birds (the "dining room" was simply a covered patio).  I don't think this place actually had a name.  I'm pretty sure "Comida" was just painted on a found piece of plywood then stuck by the road (which happened to be an unfortunate trail of the Pan-American highway).  But the food was incredible.  Fresh, local, and uncomplicated.  The fish was mahi-mahi and it was lightly battered and deep fried until tender and crispy topped with shredded carrots and cabbage, pico de gallo, and crema.  The freshly made corn tortillas were the ultimate wrapping for this perfect little concoction.

   It is weird to think that this moment of revelation occurred almost 8 years ago.  It seems like yesterday and to this day I can not get enough fish tacos.  While I hate to admit it, this is a meal where I will truly pig out.  This is one variation that we make at home.

Blackened Fish Tacos 
1 lb tilapia, fillets cut in half (roughly equal oblong portions)
2 Tbsp butter, melted
2 Tbsp blackening seasoning (amount is estimated)*
2 tsp oil or butter
about 8 corn tortillas (1 for each piece of fish)
1 recipe cilantro lime slaw (below)

   Brush fish pieces with melted butter.  Sprinkle liberally with blackening seasoning.  Do this for each side.  Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.  Cook fish for 3-4 minutes a side.  (Will vary depending on actual thickness of fish.)  DO NOT move fish once it is in the pan.  If you move it, the proper blackened crust will not form!
TIP:  If you have to cook fish in batches,  slightly under-cook fish and place cooked pieces on a baking rack on a tray and keep warm in the oven.  They will continue to cook a little.
   Spread tortillas on a baking sheet.  Place in 300 deg F oven for about 3 minutes, until warmed and pliable.  Serve fish in tortillas and top with slaw and/or fresh salsa.
Serves 4.
 *You can find blackening seasoning at any grocery store in the spice aisle and/or near the seafood counter.  Chef Paul Prudhomme's Blackend Redfish Magic is my absolute favorite.

Cilantro Lime Slaw
2 C shredded cabbage or cole slaw mix
1/3 C light sour cream 
1/4 C fresh lime juice (~2 limes)1/4 C chopped cilantro
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion (1/4 of a medium sliced onion)
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp minced garlic
salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients.  Salt and pepper to taste.  (Sugar may also be added to taste.)  Let stand at roomte temp for 15 minutes to let everything marry or make ahead, cover, and keep in refigerator.

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