Fish Tacos: Rediscovering Seafood

The first 18 years of my life were spent just a stone’s throw from the ocean. I grew up just a 20 minute drive from a real beach. Summers were spent on the water surrounded by farmlands. I’ve built more sandcastles than I can remember and stung by jellyfish I’ll never forget.

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For those of you who don’t know, I grew up in Moncton, New Brunswick. I always clarify this as just north of Maine so people don’t think I grew up in New Jersey.

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I didn’t wander too far for university (100 miles to be exact). And these past five months have been the first time in my life I haven’t been a short drive from salty air.

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I have to admit, I have not bought fish since moving to Ontario. I grew up next to the Lobster Capital of the World where shellfish was literally eaten right off the boat. Fried clams, lobster rolls, fish n’ chips, clam chowder, mussels dipped in butter. These are things that Maritimers take a lot of pride in. They are things I grew up eating on the regular and never really thought twice about.

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However, it seems my Maritime upbringing has failed me.

I unknowingly was missing out on one of the greatest seafood dishes of all.

Fish tacos.

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I blame the British influence in the East. It wasn’t until I travelled to the other ocean that I learned there was a whole culture of seafood I was missing out on. Namely, Mexican.

Canada, we have got to get into this Mexican thing.

While at the Foodbuzz Festival in San Francisco, I attended a breakout session hosted by Alaskan Seafood. Susan Milliken, of Border Grill fame, demonstrated a couple varieties of her famous fish tacos. I was immediately hooked.

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I got to try the fish tacos at the Tasting Pavillion and fell in love. The soft tortilla, flaky fish, chunky and spicy salsa with the cool sour cream. It was the perfect combination of textures and flavours. Not to mention an utter mess to eat.

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Needless to say, I’ve been thinking of these fish tacos ever since. I’m no longer in the Maritimes, or on the West Coast, but that doesn’t mean I can’t bring a little spice to Mid-Eastern Canada.

I started with the above taco…

Haddock Fish Tacos with a Cucumber Citrus Salsa.

We were given recipe cards for the tacos and I totally lost them. No bother. It made recreating them even more fun. I had to do it from just one tantalizing memory!

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I began with the salsa:

  • 1 large cucumber, peeled and cubed
  • 1 medium orange, segmented and chopped
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/2 jalepeno, minced (I’m sure Susan used a different pepper, but regular grocery stores in Canada don’t carry many choices!)
  • 2 tbsp fresh cilantro

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I didn’t want a whole bunch of salsa leftover, so I started small. Since all I could remember was the cucumber and orange from the recipe, I just went with what sounded like usual salsa ingredients for the rest!

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But I need to work on my segmenting skillz. And a sharper knife.

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I prepared the salsa the day before as these things usually taste best when they’ve had time to sit and mingle flavours.

The fish however, I was not on the ball with.

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The Alaska Seafood people encouraged buying frozen fish. It’s usually flash frozen at its freshest, whereas the stuff in the fish market of your grocery store could be up to two weeks old! I went for Wild Pacific Haddock. Rather than defrosting it slowly like you’re supposed to, I let it thaw in hot water.

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Then pan fried until just cooked. I do not like my fish overcooked at all so this is a step I’ve actually gotten pretty good at.

The key to my homemade fish tacos were the tortillas. I made those too!

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I’ve actually done this before and it’s super simple. I really don’t know why more people don’t do it. Three ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup hot water

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Some people let it sit for a little bit. But by this point I was hungry and got to rolling.

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Apparently, something else I need to work on.

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Cooked in a medium-heat pan until brown and bubbly.

Here’s where some of Susan Milliken’s tips came in handy. To soften the tortilla before eating, quickly dunk it in water to make it more pliable. Then, when assembling your taco (or whatever you may have) put lettuce on the bottom to prevent the juicier ingredients from soaking through the tortilla.

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I lettuce-d like a good girl, placed my flaky fish down, spooned a heap of salsa over top, and finished with a dab of plain yogurt.

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First, the tortillas. Best idea ever. You could taste the better quality and they really brought the whole thing up a notch.

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The salsa turned out fantastic. I am so proud of this little cucumber citrus salsa and can see myself making it time and time again! It’s so simple, versatile, and sounds way fancier than it really is.

The fish? Weellll, it’s not quite “off the boat” good. But not too shabby for my first inland foray into seafood. I can say fish tacos will definitely be added to my regular rotation of seafood dishes. I’ll be sure to whip up a batch for all my fellow fish lovers back home. Chased down with mussels drenched in a butter sauce of course ;)

Speaking of which – 29 days until I go home for Christmas.

Not that I’m counting down the hours or anything.

 

Question of the Day: Let’s talk fish tacos. Have you had them? Favourite kind or combination?

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Posted on November 17, 2010, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 30 Comments.

  1. I live in the land of the fish taco. Well, technically, that’s Baja, but when they first were brought into the US, they came by way of San Diego. I think it’s funny (and awesome) how mainstream they are now. A few years ago people back East would look at me like I was insane if I mentioned fish tacos (or they would giggle, but we’ll keep that off your family blog).

    However, I hate to be “that person” but real fish tacos are beer-battered and fried. Now, I’ve eaten the nonfried kind plent and I’m a fan, but when you come to San Diego for BlogHer (teehee) we will go get authentic fish tacos (well, authentic minus the scary border crossing).

  2. Those look soooo good!

    I love seafood–always have. Especially living in the NW where I can get fresh seafood every day. I hadn’t tried fish tacos until recently and they were so good I wanted to recreate them at home. We use tilapia.

  3. Okay I had no CLUE making your own tortillas was that easy! And only 3 ingredients? Love!

  4. I lurve fish tacos, I am so glad that you have been enlightened to the wonderfulness. I am specially glad for my timing at the extrordinary long fish taco line….Thank goodness for you and Leah.

  5. Those look good, but I don’t like fish. I keep trying to like it, but I can just barely get past tuna. Other seafood I adore, but not fish.

    Now a scallop or shrimp taco? Now we’re talking!

  6. I love fish tacos! I don’t think I’ve tried one that I didn’t enjoy. But maybe my favorite is just a white fish like tilapia with cheese and black beans. Something simple. I do want to enter the fish taco contest, though!
    I bet growing up in New Brunswick was gorgeous. I did my undergrad in Brunswick, ME and miss it so much!

  7. Wow do those look great, Susan! I often make corn tortillas from scratch — they’re even easier than flour ones, if you’d believe that. The dough doesn’t require any kneading and they roll out without springing back on you!

  8. Fish is a tricky thing to cook with, cuz each type has such different texture. I’m wondering if the haddock was too flaky/soft? Maybe halibut or a firmer fish might be better for frying. Either way though, looks yummy, and i’m totally inspired to try tortillas!!

    xox

  9. Mexican and Southwestern cuisine is one of my faves. Not that I’ve ever been to Mexico or the Southwest but for some reason it’s incredibly popular out here on the West Coast. We have a few really great spots to get yummy eats…one place is basically a fish taco stand! You would die!! Sooooo good.

    My hometown has a super cute Mexican restaurant that has been there for 20 years and the best thing on their menu is the fish taco.

    Yours look deeeelish!

  10. holy yum, fish tacos?
    thats a crazy concept, i like.

    must try these

  11. Oooh I love that you put oranges in the salsa! I had fish burritos for the first time a few months ago and they were delicious! Like you said, I have no idea why I waited so long. The recipe I used is at: http://eatspinrunrepeat.wordpress.com/2010/03/02/fish-burritos/

  12. Fish tacos are one of the only ways I will eat fish. I love the mix of flavors and textures too.

  13. First off: I hear ya, girl! I grew up seven minutes from the ocean, fishing with my dad in the summer, gettting fresh fish right from the fisherman on the dock.

    But somehow, in moving 700 miles away, I lost my passion for fresh fish… or fish at all. WHY?!?! I love it so. I’ve just resdiscovered my love, and N and I are starting to eat more fish now!

    I LOVE fish tacos. Especially with mango salsa. Mmmm…

    xo

  14. Mmmmm fish tacos are in definite heavy rotation at my house! I love them!

    We also do fish burritoes where I mix up some veggies and rice, add some fish and press in the panini press. So good! Especially with some wasabi mayo!

  15. I had tacos in Ensenada, Mexico last winter. They were super good, and apparently the local specialty as well.

    Yours look really really good as well. I haven’t though of making fish tacos, but I am getting pretty sick of regular tacos, so I think I’ll make these soon.

  16. They are not labeled as such on the menu but I often get the grilled fish at a local mexican place and pile it into a corn tortilla with salsa, guacamole, and a generous sprinkle of lime juice. So good.

    Another place nearby has crab enchiladas. Sounds a bit gross but they were phenomenal!

  17. Oooh, this is a really good post! 1. so glad you made fish tacos at home, maybe I won’t be so afraid anymore! 2. that breakfast casserole is UNREAL, going to have to show my boyfriend, he will keel over in happiness 3. your calendar picture is soo cute I almost didn’t recognize you!

    • I didn’t do a follow up on the breakfast casserole but it is SO good. There’s no need to soak it first if your bread isn’t as dense as my irish brown bread fail. But it’s awesome to grab in the mornings and keeps me full for up to 5 hours. Which is essentially unheard of for me!

  18. I have to admit that I’ve never had fish tacos but since I started making fish burgers too, I think I could handle fish tacos too ;)

  19. That salsa sounds so unique and refreshing! Homemade tortillas are definitely on my list of must make things.

  20. Love fish in any form!! You are a badazz that you made your own tacos!

    Love that photo on the beach- beautifuL!

  21. I’ve never had fish tacos, but always wanted to try them. Your post has made me want to re-create yours! I love that you made your own tortillas. I didn’t know it was that simple! Thank you.

  22. I’d read about fish tacos a few times but wasn’t sure I’d like them enough to try making them myself before I’d ever tasted them. And then–finally, this past summer–they were on the menu when I was eating out. At–get this!– Cap’n Dan’s, on the Point du Chene Wharf in your old stomping grounds.
    And they were so good, too. They served it with guacamole as well as the sour cream–yum. But on corn tortillas, which I thought was mandatory.

    I have since ventured to make them myself, several times already. I use whole wheat tortillas (so I’m glad to see that’s officially an option). And I used frozen tilapia fillets, and panfried it with a crispy batter–the 3-plate kind, with flour, then egg/milk, then the crispy layer, for which I used wheat germ and ground flaxseed because I was trying to use them up, but it was so good I do it that way every time.

    I thought of it as a summery food but now that you’ve reminded me, I think I have some tortillas and tilapia fillets kicking around somewhere…

    Oh and I have to try that salsa!

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