Taqueria-style fish tacos with salsa and lime crema

Yes, you can make fish tacos at home.
Fried, baked or broiled, no matter how you cook your fish, it can always be improved with a simple salsa and some lime-flecked crema.
Fried, baked or broiled, no matter how you cook your fish, it can always be improved with a simple salsa and some lime-flecked crema. David Malosh
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By Sam Sifton

The mother recipe is simple: Cook fish, serve in a taco. You can grill the fish. You can fry it. Whatever method you use can yield fish worth folding into a tortilla. Here, though, is a bespoke fish taco recipe I ginned up after watching a bunch of chefs cook fish fillets for a lot longer on one side than another, seeing what a marvelous crust they got in return. Fluke works great if you're in the Northeast. But any firm white fish will do, including tilapia, the farmed fish protein that many street corner fish taco joints use really well. Deploy a simple salsa and lime-flecked crema topping to accompany the fish, however you end up cooking it.

Ingredients

For the salsa

  • 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • ¹/₂ cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut crosswise into half-moons (optional)
  • Kosher salt

For the crema

  • ¹/₄ cup mayonnaise
  • ¹/₂ cup sour cream
  • 1 lime, cut in half
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon canned chipotle pepper, finely chopped (optional)

For the fish

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 ¹/₂ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for finishing
  • 1 ¹/₂ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 pounds flounder or any firm white-fleshed fish, cut across the grain of the flesh into strips about ¹/₂ inch wide by 3 inches long
  • ¹/₂ cup peanut oil, plus a splash more for greasing the pan
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Twenty-four 6-inch fresh corn tortillas
  • 2 to 3 cups shredded green cabbage

Preparation

  1. Make the salsa. In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, onion, garlic, cilantro, and jalapeño, if using. Add salt to taste.
  2. Make the crema. In a small bowl, whisk the mayonnaise and sour cream until combined. Season to taste with the juice of the halved lime, the salt, the black pepper, and the chipotle, if using.
  3. Prepare the fish. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, chili powder, salt, and black pepper. Pour the milk into another medium bowl and place the fish in it.
  4. Pour the peanut oil into a 12-inch frying pan and place over medium-high heat until it shimmers and is about to smoke. Remove the fish pieces from the milk bath and dredge them lightly through the flour mixture, shaking to remove excess. Add the butter to the pan. Place some fish pieces in the oil, without crowding them, and cook until deep golden brown on one side, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn carefully and cook for 1 minute more. Remove to a warmed, paper towel–lined plate and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with the remaining fish.
  5. Meanwhile, lightly grease a skillet with a drizzle of oil and set over medium heat. Heat the tortillas, one or two at a time, until they are soft and hot. Keep them warm, wrapped in a dish towel if you don’t have a tortilla warmer.
  6. Fill each tortilla with 3 pieces of fish, browned side up, followed by the tomato salsa and a pinch of cabbage. Drizzle with the crema. Serve 1 or 2 tacos per person, with lime wedges and hot sauce, such as Tapatío or Frank's, on the side.

Reprinted from See You on Sunday. Copyright © 2019 by Sam Sifton. Photographs © 2019 by David Malosh. Published by Random House, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.

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