Crispy Beer Battered Fish Tacos with Avocado Crema and Pickled Red Onions
One of the biggest perks of San Diego life: Mexico.
The Corona commercials aren’t entirely inaccurate; a day trip to Popotla or weekend trek to Ensanada almost always included lounging on the beach eating fresh fish paired with a cold Tecate roja. I would be 30 minutes from home, but it felt like a vacation. Fish was purchased off the fisherman’s boat. Beer was purchased from the beach side stand who also prepared your fish. Tequila would magically appear from someone’s van if you asked where you could find some. Even the route along the Coast was stunning. There was no better way to spend a day off.
But now Baja is 2,800+ miles away, so this past weekend I prepared a fish taco feast for myself and a few California transplants. It was amazing. Everyone went back for seconds. Some thirds. Others had even more. Food was accompanied by micheladas, spicy polomas, and Mexican lager. Productivity for the day was shot. The only thing missing was the beach.
This recipe consists of a few simple components. Everything except the fish can be prepared in advance, including the batter, which makes it an easy meal for small get-togethers. Setup a make your own michelada bar (future post?!) while you fry the fish and then serve taco bar style once ready.
1 large ripe avocado
1 lime for crema + additional lime slices for serving
1 jalapeño, stems, ribs and seeds removed (optional)
3/4 cup crema mexicana (or sour cream)
neutral frying oil – enough to fill 1 to 1 1/2 inches of a large skillet
2 lbs. firm white fish cut into 1/2″ thick strips (paiche, halibut, or mahi mahi)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup Mexican lager such as Negra Modelo or Pacifico
To make the avocado crema, combine avocado, crema, juice of 1 lime, jalapeño, and a pinch of salt in a food processor or blender; pulverize until smooth. Season to taste with additional salt and/or lime juice, if needed. Transfer to a non-reactive small bowl and place in refrigerator until ready to serve. Can be made up to 3 days in advance if covered and kept refrigerated.
Remove core of red cabbage half and thinly slice for long strips. Place in a medium bowl and season with a pinch of salt and 2 tsp. lime juice; stir to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
To prepare batter, whisk or sift together 1 cup flour with salt, chili powder, and black pepper in a medium bowl. Slowly whisk in beer until uniform consistent batter forms. Set aside and allow to rest for a minimum of 15 minutes.
Mix remaining 1 cup flour on a large flat plate with salt and black pepper. Set aside.
Add oil to a large skillet or dutch oven and, over medium heat, bring to 360°F. There should be enough oil to fully submerge a piece of fish – about 1 inch deep.
Season fish on all sides with salt and pepper; dredge seasoned fish in dry flour mixture, turning to fully coat; add floured fish to batter then carefully place in frying oil.
Cook 2 to 3 pieces at a time; overcrowding or adding fish too quickly can cause a sudden temperature drop. For optimal crunchiness, maintain an oil temperature between 350 and 360°F. Cook 4 to 5 minutes until fish is medium and exterior is a beautiful golden brown. Transfer to paper towels to remove excess oil.
To serve, heat tortillas in microwave for 15 to 25 seconds (or wrap in foil and keep in 200°F oven during preceding steps). Slather tortilla in avocado crema, add fried fish, and then top with cabbage, pickled red onions, and cilantro. Kick it up with some hot sauce, if desired, or a few thin jalapeño slices and always serve with additional lime wedges.