My wife and I travelled to Nashville about a month ago and had a terrific time. Neither of us are huge country music fans, but we’d heard so much about the city’s burgeoning food scene and it’s deep recording industry heritage, that we decided to give it a whirl. We spent most of our first day at the quite excellent Country Music Museum and Hall of Fame and were having such a great visit that we totally lost track if time. Before we knew it, it was mid-afternoon, we were weak with hunger, and needed to nosh. Looking for something quick and cheap we popped down to the lobby level and grabbed a few fish tacos at Bajo Sexto. To be honest, we weren’t exactly expecting stellar fish in land-locked Nashville, but the tacos we had there were among the best we’d ever eaten! Light, fresh, crisp, boldly flavored, and washed down with a well chilled, locally brewed IPA, we were both in heaven. While that lunch wasn’t the best meal we had in Nashville (more on our amazing meal at The Catbird Seat in a later post), it absolutely inspired me to put fish tacos on my to-make list when we got home. This recipe is the result of that inspiration.
It’s an amalgam of a few different recipes out there. The fried fish comes from a Cook’s Country recipe for California Fish Tacos, the homemade corn tortillas from the America’s Test Kitchen “Mexican” book, and the “escabeche” pickled vegetables were my own creation to accompany a Chicken Tinga Tacos recipe of mine that was published in the August 2016 issue of Cook’s Illustrated. Working together, these component pieces made for really terrific tacos. The cod I used fried up beautifully moist with a super crisp coating, and the escabeche added acidic brightness and even more crunch. The avocado and sour cream sauce introduced a fatty richness while the cilantro kept things light and fresh. Finally, the freshly made tortillas cradled it all in soft, warm goodness. I cooked these up the other night when our friends Anne (author of the inspirational book, “Grace Trail“) and John joined us for dinner, and they were every bit as good (if not better), than the ones we had enjoyed in Nashville. I suspect that whenever we make them in the future, they’ll remind us of our terrific weekend there.
Cheers – S
- 2 pounds pounds skinless whitefish fillets, such as cod, haddock, or halibut, cut crosswise into 4 by 1-inch strips
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup beer
- 1 quart peanut or vegetable oil
- 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 small head romaine lettuce, cut into chiffonade
- 1 avocado, sliced
- hot sauce of choice
- 18-24 fresh corn tortillas
The White Sauce
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 red onion, halved and sliced thin
- 2 carrots, peeled and sliced thin
- 1 jalapeño chile, stemmed and sliced into thin rings
For The White Sauce
- Whisk all ingredients together in bowl. (Sauce can be made and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance.)
For The Escabeche
- Toast coriander seeds and cumin seeds in medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add vinegar, water, sugar, and salt and bring to boil, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt. Remove saucepan from heat and add onion, carrots, and jalapeño, pressing to submerge vegetables. Cover and let cool completely, 30 minutes. (Cooled vegetables can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.)
For the Fish
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Set wire rack inside rimmed baking sheet. Pat fish dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Whisk flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt together in large bowl. Add beer and whisk until smooth. Transfer fish to batter and toss until evenly coated.
- Add oil to large Dutch oven until it measures about ¾ inch deep and heat over medium-high heat to 350 degrees. Working with 5 to 6 pieces at a time, remove fish from batter, allowing excess to drip back into bowl, and add to hot oil, briefly dragging fish along surface of oil to prevent sticking. Adjust burner, if necessary, to maintain oil temperature between 325 and 350 degrees. Fry fish, stirring gently to prevent pieces from sticking together, until golden brown and crispy, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer fish to prepared wire rack and place in oven to keep warm. Return oil to 350 degrees and repeat with remaining fish.
- Divide fish evenly among tortillas. Top with escabeche, lettuce, white sauce, hot sauce, and cilantro. Serve.