Sunday, June 3, 2012

blackened fish tacos with roasted pepper sauce

I must admit that I never really experienced fish tacos until I moved to Texas, which is a travesty.  Granted, the fish taco was likely born in California, but the mexican influence is pretty strong down here.  Since then, I've had more food in taco form than I ever thought existed.  This is a good thing.

This recipe takes pieces from the multiple variations I've had over the years.  I think my favorite part is simply the freshness in taste. The brightness of the cilantro and lime is nicely balanced with the spice of the fish and smokiness of the sauce.  This is a great alternative to the traditional burger and brat summer cookout, especially if you're looking for a lighter option.  Don't get me wrong, I love burgers and brats...I'm just trying to help you out with some new ideas.

- 1 pound firm white fish (I used tilapia, which was about 4 filets)
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- juice from 1 lime
- 1.5 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
- pinch salt

Suggested Sidekicks

- tortillas (I prefer corn)
- shredded cabbage (red or green)
- chopped white onion
- chopped tomato
- cilantro
- avocado

Roasted Pepper Sauce

- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 poblano pepper
- 2 jalapeño peppers
- canola oil (very small amount for roasting)
- 1-2 teaspoons cider vinegar
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- salt & pepper to taste

Let's go ahead and start with the sauce since that can sit while you are dealing with the fish.  Roasting peppers can be done multiple ways.  I used the broiler in my oven this time around, but also really like using an outdoor grill when available.  Split the peppers in half, and remove the seeds and ribs.  This process actually makes dealing with the peppers after cooking much easier.  Lightly coat the peppers with canola oil.  The best way to do this is with a reusable pump oil mister.  If you can't get your hands on one of these, then simply apply a light coating with a brush or your hands.

Put the peppers under the broiler for 15-20 minutes.  Every broiler varies, so you'll want to keep a constant eye on them. You can go from roasted to burnt in no time.  You might notice your green peppers brown a little quicker.  If so, feel free to remove them from the heat and return the red peppers until they are done.

Transfer the roasted peppers to either a bowl covered with plastic wrap or a resealable container of your choice.  The steam generated will make the removing the skin off the pepper much easier.  After about 15 minutes, remove the peppers and use the back of a large knife to remove the skin.  It's okay if the peppers break apart since you'll be blending anyway.

Add the peppers to a blender with the vinegar and a pinch of salt.  Stream in the olive oil as you blend, and continue until you reach your desired consistency.  You could lighten this up a bit more by using vegetable stock or even water instead of olive oil.  However, I like the added richness.  Taste, and add more seasoning until it's to your liking.

That takes care of the most complicated part of this recipe, which is still not too bad.  If you find the sauce is too smokey for for your taste, you can leave half of the peppers in their raw form the next time around.  Also, I find this sauce is very flexible.  You can add in all sorts of things.  For example, toss in some roasted garlic and toss with some freshly cooked pasta.  Use it as a sandwich topping, or even thin it down a bit more for a great salad dressing.  I think that's why I enjoy cooking so much - the options are nearly unlimited.

Onward to the fish.  Mix together the canola oil, lime juice, chili powder, black pepper, and a pinch of salt.  Place the fish in the mixture, and allow to marinate.  The fish is pretty thin and delicate, so I generally don't let it go past 30 minutes to an hour.  The flavors are strong enough to make their presence known.

Cook over a medium to medium-high heat for about 2-3 minutes per side.  I actually like using a pan vs the grill here in order to get a crust all over the fish.  Once cooked, flake up the fish and assemble your tacos.  Use whatever toppings are calling to you, but the above recommendations won't do you wrong.  Not digging the tortillas?  No problem, grab some nice leaf lettuce and enjoy..

Dinner is served.  You're welcome.

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