Every winter I say the same thing. “This cold, I cannot stand it! I can’t live here another winter. Why haven’t I moved south yet?” And every winter I’m still here, freezing my butt off in Indiana. Now realistically I’d miss snow like crazy. I’d hate having a warm Christmas. I’d miss cozy sweaters and scarves. Regardless, I’m a good cold-weather complainer.
This winter has been incredibly mild as of yet, and I should really be keeping my whiney mouth shut. I’ve been able to run outside comfortably in January. Like I can feel all of my fingers the whole run. Yet I still curse the frost on my car windows every morning and swear this will be the last winter I spend here.
So to brighten up even the mildest winter and to give you a breath of summer, I give you fish tacos. This dish is a favorite of mine to order at restaurants. A good fish taco starts with a corn tortilla, a small one please. It’s filled with a few strips of flaky fish, grilled or breaded, I’m not picky. It’s topped with a fresh, bright, tomato-heavy salsa, cabbage, and a dollop of sour cream. It’s like a fresh party in your mouth!
I’ve made the fish tacos in The Essential New York Times Cookbook twice now, and, in my humble and not highly refined fish taco palate opinion, these fit all of the above requirements. This meal is probably one of the only times I will cook out of season. You can totes find decent tomatoes at your local Whole Foods. They’re probably from Mexico, but this one time I say, you support that foreign food economy! Just be sure to buy extra butternut squash at the farmers market this week.
Make some fish tacos for dinner. Go. Remind yourself that winter does have an end, that warm weather will come, that even if you live in a cold locale you can still taste summer.
adapted slightly from The Essential New York Times Cookbook
1 medium tomato, cored*, seeded, and chopped
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (store the rest in a glass of water on your counter)
1/2 jalapeño, halved lengthwise, seeded, and chopped
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt, or 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt + 1/4 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper
1/2 tablespoon finely chopped chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
1/4 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 cup milk/soymilk
1/2 pound flounder or other white fish, cut in strips
2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
pat of butter
six small corn tortillas
1 cup shredded green cabbage
hot sauce (optional)
Combine the tomato, onion garlic, cilantro, and jalapeño in a small bowl.
Whisk together the Greek yogurt, lime juice, salt, pepper, and chipotle in another small bowl.
Mix the flour, chili powder, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Pour the milk into another bowl. (yes a fourth bowl. It’ll be OK.)
Heat the peanut oil in a skillet (please say you have a cast iron skillet to fry these fishies in! If not a non-stick works fine.) over medium-high heat until it shimmers and is just barely almost but not smoking. Dip each fish strip into the milk and then into the flour mixture, dredging it in flour.
Add the butter to the skillet. Carefully set each fish strip into the skillet, no squishing, and cook until golden-brown, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Be careful when you flip; really get your spatula under each fish strip, as you don’t want to leave any crusty golden crust stuck behind on the skillet.
Remove the fish and set on a paper towel lined plate. Place another paper towel on top of the fish to dab up extra oil.
Heat the tortillas in the still hot skillet, one or two at a time. Keep warm between two paper towels. Alternatively, place tortillas between two damp paper towels and microwave for 15 seconds.
Assemble tacos by filling each tortilla with a few fish strips, some cabbage, tomato salsa, a dollop of Greek yogurt, and hot sauce.
*to core a tomato use the tip of your knife to cut a circle around the top of the tomato where the stem was attached, and remove/dig out the top.