Crunchy Fish Tacos

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Tacos are amazing. It’s a perfect little meal with all the food groups. A crunchy corn shell or maybe a soft flour tortilla. Spicy chicken. Flavorful pork. Bold beef. Roasted peppers. Red salsa. Creamy guacamole. Cotija cheese. My mouth’s watering.

I’ve been wanting to try new taco recipes, but sometimes the endless number of ingredients are hard to find. The preparation takes hours and requires skills that I just don’t have. I nearly gave up until I found this amazing recipe for fish tacos. It was completely out of my comfort zone, but everyone needs to start somewhere. And I just read something about failing is part of the process of success so I’m going to go to my happy Zen place and make these tacos. It’s good for the soul.

Fish comes in all forms, shapes, and sizes. You have your traditional white fish, such as cod or mahi mahi, that works really well in tacos, but this recipe is more exotic. Instead, you use a rare small orange fish only found in the farmed waters of Pepperidge. I thought I would have to special order it because I couldn’t find it at my fish market, but I just wasn’t looking in the right place. It’s next to impossible to buy fresh so I purchased a well-sealed bag and made the best of it. I was skeptical, but pleased at the same time. The fish comes ready with seasonings such as salt, pepper, cheese, paprika, and onion powder. Preparation is easier when all the ingredients are already baked in. No poblanos to roast. No corn to mill. No special sauces to make from the tears of unicorns.

Fortunately, you can use any type of tortilla for this taco. I chose a crunchy white corn taco shell.

Oh, before I continue, you might not want to make this around small children who tend to sneak a piece of fish or two. They need to be patient and wait for dinner. Go feed them a cookie instead.

Open your taco shells. I like how they aren’t broken. Briefly heat them up in the microwave.

Crunchy Fish Tacos

Carefully open the bag and gently measure out 1/2 cup of fish, taking care not to break the fish or disrupt the seasonings.

Crunchy Fish Tacos

Next, place the fish into the taco shell, being mindful not to spill outside of the shell.

Crunchy Fish Tacos

That’s it. So simple! The crunchy texture with the salty cheese blends together beautifully with the crispy corn shell. I can’t believe I didn’t make this sooner. Enjoy! And don’t forget to follow me for more recipes!

Crunchy Fish Tacos

Crunchy Fish Tacos

Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 4 crunchy shells
  • 2 cups fish
  • Condiments to your liking

Instructions
 

  • Microwave your taco shells briefly, about 30 seconds.
  • Take a taco shell. Measure out 1/2 cup of fish. Pour into shell. Repeat until you've made 4 tacos.
  • Top with your favorite condiments. Enjoy!

Hanger Steak with Chimol

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There’s been a lot of talk lately about culture. I don’t have a lot to say about mine and that’s a problem. My mom was from El Salvador, which makes me half Salvadoran. Growing up in California, I noticed that my mother didn’t embrace her culture as one would expect. She tried to blend in, didn’t teach me any traditions, and didn’t cook very many Salvadoran meals. She kept her memories of her homeland close to her chest and hidden. I regret not pushing her more for information, but she never wanted to talk about it.

She also hated cooking so I couldn’t fault her for not teaching me Salvadoran cooking. But she did make a few things and she made them well. She taught me how to cook black beans three ways: soup, refried, and gallo pinto. She baked Salvadoran quesadilla, a slightly sweet dessert made with rice flour and cream cheese. I remember one year when I was 5 she made tamales with some of the ladies from the neighborhood. I sat on a tall stool and watched all day as they did magical things to meats, dried fruits, and banana leaves. I wish she continued that tradition so I could learn, but it’s a lot of work and for someone who doesn’t like to cook, it was not fun, except the camaraderie shared among the women in the kitchen that December afternoon while drinking horchata. We ate tamales for Christmas Eve that night.

A few decades later, I’ve decided I need to learn what I didn’t learn: how to cook Salvadoran food. I’ve searched for cookbooks and came up empty handed. El Salvador is a small country, but I expected to find something. But with all this talk of culture, Bon Appetit has brought diverse cooking to the forefront and wrote an article about Salvadoran food. The article made me emotional, like maybe I’ve found my people. I know, it’s silly, but I found a piece of me that day, something to connect to. I decided to start my adventure on a fairly easy recipe, Hangar Steak with Chimol.

Chimol is a radish salsa that also includes red onions, lime or lemon juice, chiles, and cilantro. Some also add tomatoes, but this recipe left those out. Chimol drew out a distant memory of when my aunt made this icky radish and lemon juice mix every single day. At the time, I thought it was weird, but I think she was making chimol her way.

This recipe is not difficult to make, but making chimol was a little time consuming because of all the slicing and chopping. Combine lime juice along with thinly sliced red onion and serrano chiles (leave the seeds and membrane on for more spice). Grate a couple cloves of garlic (I added 2 cloves instead of 1 in the original recipe…I like a lot of garlic!) and slices of radish. I cut the radishes in half and then with the flat side down, sliced them up. Took a while, but that’s okay. Some things are worth the effort. I do have to say that I only used about 1/2 a chile because I didn’t want to scare away the boys. Next time, I’m going to make my own batch. Also, don’t forget to season it all with salt and pepper.

Hanger Steak With Chimol

When you’re done, it will look something like this.

Hanger Steak With Chimol

I think it looks pretty.

Prepare the grill for the hanger steak. I chose to use a grill pan and do this indoors. Hanger steak might be a bit tricky to find so ask your butcher if you can’t find it on the shelf. They usually have some in back. I thought it was the same as skirt steak and my butcher corrected me quickly. He’s a good guy. Here’s an informative article about the differences if you want to know.

While your grill pan is heating up, salt and pepper the meat and rub it with olive oil. Throw it on the pan on medium high heat. The original recipe has you do this first, but I think it’s better to wait until you’re done making the chimol.

Hanger Steak With Chimol

Cook each side for about 10 minutes for rare, or longer if you prefer. Move it to a large cutting board and douse it with that sauce no one can pronounce: Worcestershire. Apparently it’s used a lot in El Salvador and is sometimes called salsa inglesa, which I’m thinking of calling it that from now on. It’s a lot easier to say. I also learned that El Salvador has the highest per-capita consumption of salsa inglesa. That’s impressive.

Hanger Steak With Chimol

Let the meat rest for about 5 minutes so when you cut it, the juices stay in the meat rather than run all over your board. Cut thinly and serve on warm tortillas with chimol and more salsa inglesa. Yum. The meat is super tender. The chimol is peppery and spicy with the right amount of acidic tang from the lime juice. I thought that it would be weird to have salsa inglesa in a taco, but it complements it perfectly. Definitely a make again.

Hanger Steak With Chimol
Hanger Steak With Chimol

Hanger Steak with Chimol

Servings 6

Ingredients
  

  • vegetable oil for grill
  • juice of 4 limes
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1-2 serrano chiles
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 8 ounces radishes
  • 1 cup cilantro
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 1/4 pounds hanger steak cut in 2-3 pieces
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • tortillas

Instructions
 

  • Prepare your ingredients: Thinly slice red onions. Depending on how spicy you want your chimol to be, remove the seeds and membrane of the chiles, and thinly slice. Grate garlic. Slice radishes. Rough chop cilantro.
  • Mix together lime juice, red onion, chiles, garlic, radishes, and cilantro in a medium bowl. Season generously with salt and pepper. Stir in 1/4 cup olive oil. Let chimol sit at room temperature while the steak cooks.
  • Prepare a grill for medium-high heat. Oil grate with vegetable oil. Season steak with salt and pepper, and then rub all over with remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Grill, turning once, until deeply browned on the outside and cooked to desired doneness, 8-12 minutes for medium-rare. Transfer to a cutting board and generously drizzle with Worcestershire sauce. Let sit 5 minutes before thinly slicing.
  • Serve steak with chimol, warmed tortillas, and more Worcestershire sauce.

Turkey Tacos

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I have a ton of turkey leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner. Ok, maybe not a ton. More like 7 pounds. The boys have been eating turkey everything this week, including these turkey tacos that were delicious and easy to make. You can easily use chicken instead, but I needed to use up all this turkey so turkey it is.

Gather your ingredients. Chop up an onion. Shred the turkey. You know what to do.

Turkey Tacos

Saute the chopped onion in a little olive oil until cooked. Throw in the turkey, spices, and a little water. Mix it all up.

Turkey Tacos

When the water is mostly absorbed and your turkey is heated through, you are done. Assemble into tacos with your favorite toppings. See how easy that was?

Turkey Tacos

I have to admit that I usually make tacos using those seasoning packets (gasp!), but I really should break that habit. Mixing up cumin, coriander, and chili powder is just as easy as opening an envelope and is a great combination that provides lots of flavor. It doesn’t taste the same, but is just as good, if not better. These mild tacos are the opposite of spicy so feel free to throw in some hot sauce before or after you cook the turkey to kick up the fire. And don’t judge the flour tortilla. To each his own.

Turkey Tacos

Turkey Tacos

Servings 8

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 1 pound cooked skinless turkey shredded
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup water
  • salt to taste
  • tortillas
  • your favorite taco toppings

Instructions
 

  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion and saute until cooked, for about 5 minutes.
  • In the same skillet, add turkey, cumin, coriander, chili powder, black pepper, and water. Stir to mix. Add salt to taste if needed.
  • Cook for 3-5 minutes until the turkey is warmed through and most of the water is evaporated. Remove heat and assemble into tortillas. Add your favorite toppings.

Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

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As I mentioned before, I love a good taco. Time to share another taco recipe…my favorite carnitas.

There are a lot of carnitas recipes out there. I took the best out of a few recipes and created this one, which I like because of the fruit juices and real Coke. You get that orange and lime flavor with the sweetness of the cola. Be sure to use Mexican Coke with sugar, not the stuff with corn syrup or sugar substitute.

This recipe takes all day because you make it in the slow cooker, but doesn’t have the lard so it’s healthier for you. It makes a lot so I usually split it into 3 meals and freeze it. When you are ready to use it, defrost and then crisp it up on the stove.

First, measure out your seasonings.

Mix the seasonings together and add them to the slow cooker. Roll your pork around in the slow cooker. This makes coating your pork so much easier and less messy. Everything is contained in the pot.

Add onion, garlic, juices, Coke, and bay leaves. Be sure to pour around the pork, not over the pork. You want to leave the seasonings on the meat.

Cook it in the slow cooker. When it’s done, all you have left to do is shred it and crisp it up in a pan. Super easy.

This makes a delicious taco with cilantro and chopped onion. Happy Taco Tuesday!

Pork Carnitas

Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

Servings 12

Ingredients
  

  • 4 pounds skinless, boneless pork butt or shoulder
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 large onion cut into wedges
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 2 large oranges juiced, or 3/4 cup of orange juice
  • 3/4 cup Mexican Coke cola made with real sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon oil

Instructions
 

  • Combine salt, pepper, oregano, and cumin in the slow cooker pot. Roll pork in the seasonings until well coated.
  • In the slow cooker, add onion, garlic, juices, Coke, and bay leaves around the pork.
  • Cover and cook on low heat for 8-10 hours or on high for 5-6 hours. It's done when the meat falls apart.
  • Remove pork and shred with two forks. Save the liquid.
  • To crisp, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a non-stick pan or cast-iron skillet over high heat. When the pan is hot, add pork shreds and sear until it starts to crisp. Add 1/2 cup of liquid from the slow cooker. Continue cooking until the juices begin to reduce down and the meat is crispy.

Fish Tacos

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It’s been a difficult week and because of it, I’m posting only one recipe this weekend. Without going into the politics, PG&E cut power to over 700,000 households and we were one of them. Lucky us. So, yes, I could have cooked in the dark, pretended it was like camping, and roughed it. But frankly, I was not in the best mood so we went out to dinner instead. And again.

Two days later, the power was back on, but it took another two days to restore Internet and TV services. ARGH. In the meantime, I was busy throwing away half my fridge with all my food blog recipe ingredients. I have no idea how those off-the-grid people survive. Oh, wait, yes….they have a generator. We do not. Because we live in suburbs, not the country. Where the power should never go out for more than a few hours. Ok, calm down, Flora.

Enough of feeling sorry for myself. It’s time to treat myself to my favorite food: tacos.

Almost every Tuesday, we have tacos. I love tacos. No really. I’m not kidding when I say I love tacos. When I went to Houston in August, I ate tacos 4 days in a row. I still miss those tacos.

So as part of my recovery, I decided to make fish tacos. Yummy, slightly spicy, comforting tacos.

Here are the seasonings and breading. If you don’t like any crunch, use all flour instead of a panko blend. Later you’ll use an egg wash to get the breading to stick, but you can skip that too for a softer exterior. I wanted mine to have a slight crunch to mimic deep fried fish. This recipe is totally healthier than that.

I used cod, which is fairly reasonably priced compared to other fish, but you can use tilapia, which is a little cheaper, or upgrade to halibut. Any white fish will do.

To get the breading to stick, I like to use an egg wash, which is really just an egg whisked so the whites and yolks are mixed together. I also like to use tongs or a fork to dip the fish and then into the breading. It makes a lot less mess on your fingers. And if you have long nails, trust me when I say you do not want to use your hands.

The fish doesn’t need to be perfectly coated because they come out tasty no matter what, and you might want to break the fish apart in your taco anyway. Just make sure to shake off any excess breading. It’ll help prevent the breading from falling off your fish when you fry it.

If you haven’t already, buy yourself a cast-iron pan. You’ll use it over and over again for lots of recipes, like Cast Iron Pizza. Although non-stick pans and stainless steel serve their purpose, cast iron pans are durable, non-stick, and last forever. Just don’t drop it on your foot. They are incredibly heavy. Ouch.

Also invest in a fish spatula. It’s like your typical spatula but longer and curved, which makes it so much easier to flip stuff like fish, but it works on any meat, including chicken and beef. There’s nothing more frustrating than doing everything right, but not having the right equipment. It’s like using a bicycle when you really need a car. Or something like that.

When you heat up the olive oil, I like to put a timer on it. What seems like 3 minutes ends up being only 1 minute, and you really need to heat up the oil to the correct temperature so you don’t end up with soggy fish. I usually heat the oil on medium heat for about 3 minutes. Some say to look for a slight shimmering of the oil, but my eyes just don’t see that very well (no, I’m not old…just blind, apparently). Instead, I throw a bit of breading into the pan and if it sizzles, it’s ready.

Turn the temperature down slightly. I find that the pan continues to heat up, and I don’t want that or I’ll end up with burnt fish. Place one piece of fish in the pan. If it sizzles, the temperature is perfect. If it doesn’t wait another 30 seconds or so before adding the next piece.

When you add all your fish, make sure they aren’t touching. Overcrowding causes more moisture than you want so your fish ends up sauteing instead of frying. Resist the temptation to squeeze all your fish pieces into one pan. Just fry it in two batches instead.

Cook for about 3-5 minutes on each side. If it’s a steak or thicker cut, go for 4 or 5 minutes. If it’s a filet or thinner cut, go for 3 minutes. Whatever you do, do not poke and prod the fish. Let it cook. Flipping it over and over messes everything up. Trust me on this.

If you’ve followed these guidelines, your fish should not stick to the pan when you flip it. Carefully nudge your fish a little to check. If it’s stuck or doesn’t give freely, it’s not ready yet. Give it another 30 seconds to a minute. Those bread crumbs haven’t cooked enough to release from the pan. If you flip it too soon, you’ll end up with your breading stuck to the pan, not to your fish. When you flip it, the fish should look golden brown.

Place fish on tortillas and add your favorite toppings. Yum…happiness.

Fish Tacos

Fish Tacos

Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • corn or flour tortillas your favorite size
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt plus more for seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper plus more for seasoning
  • 1 pound skinless white fish such as cod, halibut, tilapia, etc.
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • your favorite toppings: crema, sour cream, lime juice, red onions, shredded cabbage, cilantro, avocado, pico de gallo, salsa, hot sauce, etc.

Instructions
 

  • Whisk an egg in a small bowl. Set aside.
  • Stir together flour, panko, chili powder, salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl. Set aside.
  • Season the fish with salt and pepper. Using tongs, a fork, or your fingers, dip fish into the egg wash and then coat with the flour mixture.
  • Heat the oil in a cast iron (or non-stick) pan over medium heat until the oil is shimmering. Add the fish to the pan without crowding the fish. Cook the fish for about 3 to 5 minutes until it's cooked halfway through the sides. The bottom should be golden brown and not stick to the pan. Wait another 30 seconds and check again before flipping.
  • Using a fish spatula, flip the fish over. Add more oil if the pan looks dry. Cook for another 3 to 5 minutes until it flakes.
  • Warm up the tortillas in a pan or microwave. Add fish to tortillas, breaking pieces apart if needed. Add toppings and serve.