Meet the seven-day fish taco. This bad boy works hard for you any day of the week not only on Tuesdays. And it delivers with a whole lotta clean. Buttermilk and cornmeal-crusted - this fish taco is baked—not fried— with a zingy carrot red pepper slaw. Eat up, my friend!
Once I spot fish tacos on a menu, it's pretty hard to see anything else. And then I usually have to go through the whole discussion in my head of "I really want them fried but I know grilled is better for me." I'll admit
many most times I chuck it all and order the fried. A girl's gotta indulge.That being said, why can't I have both?
Truth time: I set out to create a tempura-battered baked taco entirely based on cornstarch, baking powder and ginger beer instead of soda water for the necessary chemical interaction. I wanted a flourless batter but didn't have much success. It had a bad after-taste and when baked, the batter kind of pooled and curled up away from the baking sheet. Unfortunately, I think the oil helps create that puffy, crisp exterior. Food scientists—feel free to weigh in here but in the meantime, if you know how to make a BAKED fluffy, tempura battered fish that stays crunchy, give me a shout.
It was re-adaption time which in this case meant starting over. Since I still wanted a flourless outside, I used cornmeal to give the desired crunch. Here are the steps:
- cumin + buttermilk (or DIY buttermilk: milk with a little white vinegar)
- cornmeal, salt, pepper, garlic powder
After coating a piece of fish with the cornstarch, let it go for a swim in the cumin/buttermilk bath and toss it around in the cornmeal. Lay it on a baking sheet and you are 10 minutes away from fish taco greatness.
Now the fish on its own tastes great but it definitely needs a little accessorizing to push it over the edge. Yep, a traditional coleslaw could work but I needed something with a little more heat. The fish can take it and so can I. And for that matter, I believe you can too. A slaw made out of apple, shredded carrots, sliced jalapeno, red pepper, and cilantro with a sriracha honey dressing? Oh yah—that'll do just fine. If you aren't someone who likes spicy, leave out the jalapeno and maybe substitute it with a little mango. It's ok - sweet is good too.
To assemble the tacos, first start with tortillas. I really like these little street taco size tortillas. They are the perfect size for one piece of fish with all the toppings and you don't feel like you're overdoing it on the carbs. Take one of these tortillas (corn is preferred but I won't tell if you are like my husband and will only eat flour), layer on a couple of slices or four of avocado. Next, place on a piece of fish and a healthy forkful of slaw. Before taking a bite, make sure you have lots of icy libations to cool things off!
I will say that serving the fish without tortillas is perfectly acceptable. I even like the idea of laying down a bed of arugula or spinach first and then layering the fish, avocado, and slaw in that order to make a salad. After all, I'm a girl who likes her options.
for a crowd:
Make a taco bar with the fish laid on a baking sheet and all the toppings ready to go. To heat the tortillas, wrap a bunch in plastic wrap and warm in the microwave for about 45 seconds. Keep wrapped till ready to use. Another option is to dampen a dish towel and place in a preheated 250° oven until ready to use.
for a few:
Trader joe's has tilapia and other great filleted fish in their freezer section in small portions. Defrost these to easily to make these tacos.
You can make these earlier in the day and reheat them before dinner.
Cornmeal Baked Fish Tacos with Jalapeno, Apple and Carrot Slaw
For the Fish
- 1 lb tiliapia fillets or other white fish, defrosted if frozen
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- ½ cup cornmeal
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- ½ cup buttermilk, or milk
- 1 T white vinegar, only if using regular milk above
- ¼ tsp cumin
For the Slaw
- ⅔ cup thickly grated or shredded carrots, packed
- ¼ cup red onion, minced
- ½ cup red pepper, chopped
- ½ cup sweet ,tart red apple like Honeycrisp or Pink Lady, chopped
- 2 T cilantro, minced
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- 1 T sriracha
- 1 T honey
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- ¼ cup olive oil, might need a little more
- lime, juiced
- 16 small corn/flour tortillas
- 2 avocados, halved, pitted, sliced thin
For the Fish
- Preheat oven to 425°.
- Brush a medium size baking sheet with olive oil or baking spray.
- Slice the fish into quarters or 3" pieces depending on size. Set aside.
- Pour cornstarch into flat pie plate. Set aside.
- Pour buttermilk into second flat pie plate or shallow bowl. Add cumin and stir to blend. (Alternatively: If using regular milk, pour milk into bowl and add vinegar. Stir to incorporate and set aside. And then add cumin)
- Add cornmeal to third shallow bowl along with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Coat both sides and ends of each piece of fish in the cornstarch and then dip to coat in the buttermilk mixture. Finally, place or toss in cornmeal mixture and place on oil coated baking sheet. Repeat until all remaining pieces are coated.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes until fish is firm.
For the Slaw and Dressing
- Combine all of the chopped veggies and fruit in a small bowl and toss to evenly distribute the jalapeno.
- Add the vinegar to a glass measuring cup. To it, add the sriracha, honey, salt and pepper and whisk together to make sure the honey is entirely blended. Slowly add the olive oil whisking the entire time to make an emulsion.
- Slice off a piece of the end of the lime and squeeze it into the dressing. Whisk together and taste for seasoning.
- Toss the slaw with the dressing. Can be made a couple of hours ahead.
To Assemble the Tacos
- While the fish is baking, wrap the tortillas in plastic wrap and soften in the microwave for no more than 30 seconds. Unwrap carefully - the steam can be hot!
- Using a pair of tongs, carefully heat each tortilla over the flame of a gas stove turning to evenly and lightly char. Alternatively, heat or broil in an oven on a baking sheet at a low temperature. If you broil them, it'll only take a couple of minutes.
- Lay a couple pieces of avocado on a tortilla. Top with a piece of fish and some slaw. Serve with additional pieces of lime and sriracha dressing.