Springtime for Tacos

Look at that perfect bite coming straight into your faces!

That, mah friends, is a delicious homemade corn tortilla wrapped around crispy beer battered sea bream with all the fixings.   How did I arrive at this ridiculously tasty result? Funny you should ask, let me tell you about it.

Inspiring spring days make for inspiring culinary projects.  One cannot deny what warm sunshine, blue skies and sea breezes do for the psyche.  These days I can sit on my front balcony from morning til mid afternoon basking in the south facing sun and reading a good book.  The only thing that separates me from one of those commercials for a new headache medicine that fixes all your life’s problems, is a tall glass of strawberry lemonade and maybe a puppy bouncing around.  Spring makes me feel like I’m on top of the world.  And that the world is made of magical dolphins and newborn animals, and that I am wizard that grows all the flowers to feed all the new baby animals.  You with me?

And now that the sunshine is out all the time our garden has become a vision of rejuvenation!  I swear there is no better feeling than getting really dirty and romping around with a shovel and some seeds. The only thing that brings me more joy than working in the garden myself is working in the garden with Udi. He has a way greener thumb than myself, and his enthusiasm for starting new crops of this or that veggie is infectious.  He constructs and builds, he digs and waters, and nearly every day he encourages me to take a walk with him through the garden to inspect all of our hardwork plant by plant.

With all of this spring in my step I knew that the time for tacos had arrived.  But as with most projects I take on here, the first step to tacos would be solving one of my greatest dilemmas: where to buy corn flour with masa.  A search that has lead me all over this city for almost a year now.  I had nearly given up trying when I was directed to a small stall in the shuk catering to South American goods and products.  There, tucked on what I like to call “Meat Alley” (I call it that because it is literally a row of butchers that keep their carcases dangling in the sunlight so that the putrid smell can waft all over the neighborhood)…nevermind….I found there a stand both small and unassuming that carries no more than a few items at a time.   But there, beaming to me like a beacon of hope,  were bags of corn flour with masa. Exactly what I needed to get this show on the road.  Now all I was missing was some good looking fish and a cold beer.  Onto Dudi.

Not that kind of Dudi. Dudi is the fish guy I mentioned before, I stopped by his beautiful shop and had them de bone a cute little fish for me.  Got home and got to cookin’.

I do not have a tortilla press so these puppies were punched by hand (well not actually my hand, I used a heavy pan to act as the weight). As a result they are a little on the thick side, but I quite liked the way they acted with the overall meal, its like getting to eat your plate, too.

You made it!

Now go make it!

Beer Battered Fish Tacos with Homemade Tortillas
*serves 2 people if those 2 people each want to eat 4 tacos (which I highly recommend as the minimum serving size). But this obviously depends on the size of the fish and the size of the tortilla as well.

Da Fish:
2 filet of any white fish deboned, skin on, cut into 1″ wide strips…choose a nice fatty fish, it will hold up better when being fried
1 cup beer (whatever you feel like drinking because there will be some left in the bottle)
1/2 cup flour
big pinches of salt
tiny pinch of cayenne
Enough vegetable oil to deep fry in, let’s say in your medium sized pot you will need about 3 cups?
squeeze of lemon

Da Crema:
1/2 cup yogurt
2 tablespoons (heaping!) mayo
1/2 lemon squeezed
generous pinch of cumin
pinch of salt
generous pinch of white pepper, if you got it
big handful of chopped cilantro
* i often add some chipotle for smokiness, or some chopped up chili peppers for heat. for these particular tacos i just wanted to taste the bright light fish with no interference, but try these and other add-ins if it pleases you!

Da Tortillas:
*I followed the water to corn flour ratio on the back of the bag that I bought – found the dough a little wet and continued adding corn flour bit by bit until i had something similar to wet clay.  If you are not sure about the consistency let it rest for 10 minutes or so. The flour should continue to be absorbed and the dough should relax enough to be pliable .


INSTRUCTIONS:

Start with the tortilla dough, mix it according the instructions on the bag. Let stand for 10 minutes.

In the meantime…
Mix all the ingredients together for your crema. Stir, taste for seasonings and pop in the fridge until you are ready.

Place your fish on paper towels and cover with more paper towels to ensure they are very dry when you get ready to coat them with batter.

Make your tortillas before you fry the fish.   My method was as follows: (see gif above for visual reference)
– grab golf ball sized piece of dough, roll it in your hands until it is a smooth ball
– using a heavy plastic bag ( I cut open a thick shopping bag because I didn’t have any ziplocks, but a ziplock would be perfect. just be sure to cut it open so you are working with a sheet of plastic).  Place the ball of dough on the plastic, obviously not in the very middle, fold the plastic over the dough and using a heavy frying pan smash the dough with even pressure.  When you lift up you should see a nice round disk.  I was shooting for slightly less than 1/4″ thickness.  That ensured that i could easily get the tortilla off of the plastic without it ripping.
-open the plastic again, flip the plastic over so the exposed tortilla is now resting your hand and gently peel back until the tortilla is off completely.  You can rest your ready tortillas off the edge of a cutting board until you are ready to heat them.z
– heat a non stick skillet or cast iron pan over medium heat.  add the tortillas to the dry hot pan, let them toast for about 1 1/2 minutes (you want the dough to look blistered but not browned, you are not looking for a lot of color on these guys). Flip and heat for another minute.  Remove and place under a dishtowel until you are ready to use them.  They should be soft and pliable with a nice toothsomeness to them.

Batter and Fry:
Mix the beer, flour and salt in a bowl until combined. You want a loose batter but not too wet.  If it seems too liquidy sprinkle more flour and mix.
Heat your oil in a large deep pan until hot. Test the heat by dropping a dribble of batter in, if the oil sizzles and bubbles you are good to go.

Dunk your fish chunks in the batter to coat them and then toss them into the hot oil.  They should cook up in just a few minutes. I like to remove them when they are just golden brown to ensure that my fish is still nice and moist on the inside. 2-3 minutes should do the trick. If they are browning up too quickly, drop the heat a touch and carry on. Remove them to a paper towel to drain until you need them.

Plate and Serve:
I like to use the following:  Shredded cabbage, sliced radish, sliced avocado, chopped tomatoes,and fresh cilantro. You can use what you like. These flavors add the kind of crunchiness and creaminess that I like to balance out the fish.  They are also pretty to look at.

Place whatever ingredients you desire into your tortilla, (I like to double up on the tortillas to create a super sturdy taco), add your fish, drizzle your crema over the top, squeeze some lemon over the top and be sure your beer is close by.

Take a bit, drink a sip and enjoy!

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