Anytime Fish Tacos with Fresh Salsa & White Sauce

Sun. September 30, 2012 12:00 AM
by Brad Mercil

I was having trouble coming up with a topic for this month's column; I started out thinking I would write about comfort food now that we are into fall but somehow that just didn't seem to work. My editor suggested that I write about my fish tacos. Yes, that's a great idea! Fish tacos can be made anytime of the year and everybody has their own take on what to put into them.

I have two different ways to prepare the filets for fish tacos. One is a corn meal breading that gets fried in a pan with oil that you've flavored with garlic slices. The other is a cilantro lime marinade that you pour on the filets allowing them to soak up all that flavor before grilling. Both preparations make great fish tacos and it's always fun for guests to build their own. I serve them with refried beans and rice and yes, you guessed it! Since I use the big burrito shells, people will put refried beans and rice on their taco and roll it up into a big burrito. Hey... whatever turns your crank right!

The corn meal breading preparation comes from a recipe that I stumbled onto years ago and have played around with it ever since. I prefer to keep the filets crunchy on the outside but still moist and flaky on the inside. You should be able to easily break up the filets with a fork. You can fry the corn meal filets a little longer and make them really crunchy if that's your preference. Another trick that I've seen is to take a cast iron frying pan and put it into a hot oven for 30 minutes. Take the frying pan out of the oven, add some oil and then fry the filets. I've done this many times and it also makes for a very nice filet.

The cilantro lime marinade preparation brings some great flavor. The nice thing about this preparation is that you can do it ahead of time. It's the combination of the onion, lime and cilantro along with the smoky flavor that the filets get from being cooked on the grill that steps up this recipe.

The other components are fresh salsa and my cumin lime white sauce. I know this sound like a lot of work but it really does not take that much time to whip up. And it's really the freshness that will take your fish tacos over the top.

So let's get started... ..


Fish Tacos with Fresh Salsa
and Cumin Lime White Sauce


Fresh Salsa


3 medium to large tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup purple onion finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro finely chopped
3 teaspoons lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional - 2 Serrano or jalapeno chilies, seeds removed finely chopped


Combine all ingredients in a glass bowl, cover and place in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 hours for flavors to blend. This recipe makes about 2 cups.


Cumin Lime White Sauce


1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup plain yogurt
3 tablespoons fresh salsa
1 tblsp ground cumin
1/2 teaspoons dill weed
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Zest from one lime


Combine all ingredients in a small food processor or a bowl and then use hand mixer to puree until it is well incorporated. Pour white sauce mixture into a squirt bottle and allow to sit for 2 hours in the refrigerator before serving.


Crunchy Corn Meal Filets


4 to 6 white fish filets such as Orange Roughy, Tilapia, Walleye, Cod or Hake

***Corn Meal Breading***

1 cup corn meal
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
3/4 cup whole milk or half and half

Combine all ingredients except for half and half or milk in a shallow bowl for dredging. Pour half and half or milk in a second shallow bowl.


3 tablespoons peanut oil
3 garlic cloves sliced length wise

Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add peanut oil and allow oil to heat for 1 minute. Add half the garlic slices to the heated oil and fry for 2 minutes or until the slices are golden brown on the edges. Remove garlic slices from frying pan. (Do not overcook the garlic otherwise it will impart a burned flavor to the oil.)

Arrange the corn meal breading and half and half or milk bowls close to the frying pan. Place two filets into the half and half or milk, then dredge each filet in the corn meal breading mixture and carefully place in hot frying pan. Fry the first side for 2 to 3 minutes; turn and fry the second side for 2 minutes.

Place cooked filets on a platter and repeat process for remaining filets. If the oil in the frying pan is low, add two more tablespoons of peanut oil and fry the remaining garlic slices before frying more filets.


Cilantro Lime Marinade


4 to 6 white fish filets, such as Orange Roughy, Tilapia, Walleye, Cod or Hake
3 tablespoons peanut oil
1/3 cup shredded or thinly sliced purple onion
Juice from 1 to 2 limes freshly squeezed (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper freshly ground


Combine all ingredients in a small bowl except for filets then toss to incorporate. Rinse fillets in water then pat dry and place in a Ziploc bag. Pour the cilantro lime marinade over the fillets. Gently squeeze the bag to remove as much air as possible then seal the bag and turn several times to coat the fillets. Place in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 hours turning the bag several times during the marinade process.

***Grilling Filets***

Heat grill to medium high heat and place filets on grill. Cook on first side for 2 to 4 minutes. Turn filets and cook another 2 to 3 minutes. Do not turn the filets more than once during grilling or the filets will break apart. Serve grilled filets on a platter.

***Taco Assembly Ingredients ***

8 to 10 taco shells (get the large size if your guests like to really pile it on)
2 to 3 cups shredded purple or green cabbage (or both)
2 cups shredded Queso Chihuahua cheese
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Fresh salsa
Cumin Lime White Sauce
Platter of just cooked white fish fillets

To assemble the tacos, place a taco shell on your plate and top with another taco shell (that way the bottom shell catches all the drippings). With a fork, break off one third of a filet then set on the shell and use the fork to break up the filet into bite sized pieces. Place some shredded cabbage on top of the fish pieces then sprinkle with some queso cheese. Drizzle the taco with fresh salsa then squirt white sauce on top of the whole taco. Tuck one end of the taco shell in and roll up the sides – enjoy!