No. 330: Family-Meal Fish Tacos

There is not a single more versatile and beloved ingredient in my home than the jar of Jiff peanut butter in our pantry.

We have a jar of Justin's organic for the kids, but we have to be honest ... the adults prefer the old-school kind.

Mr. McC adores peanut butter and bread. It's a daily breakfast or snack for him, and it gives him as much pleasure as a gourmet steak or perfectly barbecued brisket. I prefer to eat mine directly off a spoon or with apple slices.

There was a hilarious Deadspin article this week about the virtues of peanut butter, Peanut Butter Is Your Salvation In a Jar , that must have been written just for people like us.

"You cannot pinpoint a time of day when peanut butter feels inappropriate, and even better, at each of those times, it still somehow feels like an indulgence, as you lap up the last flecks off a spoon or fingertip, the brain’s surest mechanism for mischief-eating, hearkening back to all the fudge or cookie dough or pancake batter you’re not supposed to touch."

Amen.

What is your favorite staple?

Family-Meal Fish Tacos

This recipe has nothing to do with peanut butter (and I'd highly recommend not including pb with it). But it is a seriously delicious take on a classic seaside staple from the West Coast.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons chile powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons paprika
1-2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, or to taste
1 1/2 pounds firm white fish fillets, like cod or red snapper, skinless*
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups sour cream
2 chipotle chilies in adobo, finely chopped, or more to taste
12 white corn tortillas
3 tablespoons neutral oil, like grapeseed or canola
6 scallions, trimmed and cut into 4-inch lengths
5 radishes, trimmed and sliced thin
8 ounces Cheddar cheese, grated
2 limes, cut into wedges

*I used 3 tilapia fillets and could easily have halved the seasoning mix.

To make

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the chile powder, garlic powder, paprika, cumin and red-pepper flakes in a shallow dish. Season the fish fillets aggressively with salt and pepper, then press them into the spice mixture, turning to coat. Set aside.

Combine the sour cream and the chipotles in a small bowl, and stir to combine. Set aside.
Cook the tortillas until they are toasted in a large skillet set over high heat, approximately 30 seconds or so per side, then stack them on a large sheet of aluminum foil. Wrap the foil around the tortillas, and place the package into the oven to heat.

Turn the heat under the pan down to medium-high, and add a tablespoon of the oil and then the scallions. Cook these, tossing occasionally, until they are about to char, then remove and set aside.

Add the remaining oil to the pan and heat it until it begins to shimmer. Add the fish and cook until well browned and crisp, approximately 4 minutes per side. Remove from pan and slice into strips or simply break into pieces.

Serve the fish with warm tortillas, garnished with the scallions, radishes, cheese and chipotle sour cream, and lime wedges on the side.

The results

One thing that Asheville is seriously missing is great, traditional Mexican. There are plenty of options, but it's either Americanized (doused in salsa and cheese) or a hipster take (duck tacos with mole are amazing, but not traditional fare).

Eating these tacos is like transporting yourself directly to a beach in Mexico (minus the hassle of actual air travel and dealing with tourists). Pan-fried and simple, they are incredibly similar to beachside cart tacos that we've had in Cabo.

The original recipe is lacking a bit in toppings, especially veggies. We dished up our tacos with guacamole (an avocado smash with some salt, lime juice, cumin, garlic and red pepper flakes), lime wedges, green scallions, jalapeño slices, cilantro and tomatillo salsa. Thinly sliced radishes and chipotle sour cream would make killer additions as well.

Fish taco fixings

Hint: I'm a big fan of the avocado spread on the tortilla, then layering on the meat and fixings. I learned that trick from Mr. McC.

Second Hint: Frying the tortilla isn't necessary in our book, but warming it up (pan or microwave or oven, your call) is a crucial step!

Fish taco plate

All in all, these are terrific. If nothing else, I'm pretty sure I'll be fixing tilapia this way until the end of my days.

Bonus, the kiddos gobbled up the fish the next day and loved it. Yahoo!

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