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Tacos with a twist

Fish tacos a unique Friday option for Lent

Published: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 4:59 p.m. CST

(MCT) — As many Christians observe Lent, they may discover that going meatless on Fridays — an act of penance — can get a little boring. Coming up with different takes on fish isn’t always easy. And there are a half-dozen more Fridays to go.

For something different, try fish tacos. They’re easy and fun for kids, too.

Fish tacos are simply floured, battered and pan-fried pieces of fish nestled in a warm tortilla.

They’re seasoned with a little kick of spicy cayenne pepper and chili powder. The batter is thin and doesn’t puff up when fried. (If that’s what you prefer, mix the batter with club soda or beer.)

You can fry these in a skillet instead of deep-frying. Pan-frying eliminates the need for heating up a mess of oil and having that deep-fried smell hanging around.

Once pan-fried, keep them warm in the oven where they will stay crisp. They also can be made in advance and recrisped in the oven.

These are even great as a leftover. I find it best to reheat them in a toaster oven.

The cabbage adds a nice crunch when you bite into these. You can doctor up the cabbage, too, with a splash of vinegar and some salt and black pepper. And if you don’t like cabbage, try some chopped romaine.

The cilantro tartar is a different take on traditional tartar sauce that gets some heat from minced jalapeno peppers. If you chop the jalapeñ o with the ribs and seeds, be prepared — that’s where most of the heat lies.

This recipe uses smallish flour tortillas, but you can use corn tortillas if you like. With either one, a good way to heat them is to microwave them. Place several on a microwave-safe dish, cover with paper towel and wrap with plastic wrap. Microwave 1-1½ minutes. Remove from the microwave and let sit a minute before removing the plastic. When you do remove the plastic, do it so the steam escapes away from you.

Here are a few other ideas for fish tacos:

If you don’t want batter and fry the fish, bake it. Brush with a little oil, season as desired and bake in a 400-degree oven. B ake 10 minutes for every 1-inch of thickness.

Consider using shrimp in place of fish. Bake or sauté shrimp until they’re opaque. Serve with the same cilantro tartar sauce.

Try different sauces. Top the tacos with sour cream mixed with lime zest, cilantro and lime juice. Make an avocado sauce by puréeing ripe avocado with lime juice and sour cream until it’s the consistency of a sauce. Drizzle over the fish.

Make pico de gallo. Mix chopped tomatoes, onions, cilantro, lime juice, a bit of olive oil and vinegar. Season with salt, pepper and a few pinches of sugar to taste. This goes well with any baked fish.

———

Fish tacos with cilantro tartar sauce

Makes: 12 tacos / Preparation time: 15 minutes / Total time: 1 hour

Use any firm fish for this recipe. Mahi-mahi and tilapia work well.

Cilantro tartar:

• 1 cup low-fat mayonnaise

• 1/3 cup chopped cilantro

• 1 tablespoon lime juice

• 2 tablespoons capers, plus a little caper juice

• 1 small jalapeño pepper, minced (with seeds, if desired)

Fish:

• 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds cod fillets

• 1 cup Drake’s Crispy Frymix (or favorite fish-fry mix)

• 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

• 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

• 1/2 teaspoon chili powder

• Salt and pepper to taste

• 1 cup oil for frying

• 12 6-inch flour tortillas

For Serving:

• 2 cups finely shredded cabbage

• 4 green onions, thinly sliced

• 1 avocado, halved, pitted, diced

To make the tartar: In a small bowl, combine all the tartar ingredients. Set aside. You can make this one day in advance.

To make the fish: Rinse and pat dry the cod fillets well. Cut fillets into 2- by 1-inch pieces. Set aside.

Mix the fry mix with ½ to ¾ cup water. The batter should be very thin, like pancake batter. On a shallow dish or pie plate, mix the flour, cayenne pepper, chili powder and salt and black pepper.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

When ready to fry, in a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. The oil should cover the bottom and come up at least ¼ inch in the skillet.

Working in batches, dredge several pieces of fish in the flour mixture and then dip in the batter, allowing the excess batter to drip off.

Place in the hot oil and fry on all sides until browned, about 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet and place in the oven to keep the fish hot. Repeat with remaining fish.

Microwave the flour tortillas to warm.

To assemble, place some cabbage on each tortilla. Top with 2 to 3 pieces of fish and a dollop of tartar. Garnish with green onions and diced avocado.

From and tested by Susan Selasky in the Free Press Test Kitchen. Analysis per 1 taco with Cilantro Tartar.

290 calories (45 percent from fat), 15 grams fat (2 grams sat.fat), 27 grams carbohydrates, 15 grams protein, 644 mg sodium, 29 mg cholesterol, 3 grams fiber.

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