Josh recently requested that I try making something I’ve not made in a while: fish tacos. We’re big taco people and I’m always game to try something new and fresh in our tacos, so I was game.
Since we’ve switched to unprocessed food, meals like tacos looks a little different. Everything has to be made from scratch, or pretty close to it, so I was a little overwhelmed by the idea of trying to orchestrate an entire taco feast for one evening.
Surprisingly, concocting our fish tacos was an absolute breeze and the flavor was well worth the effort. Of all the dinners I’ve made this week, our fish tacos – which took on a decidedly Southern California vibe – were probably the easiest.
While I’m going to share the recipe for the Baja Fish Tacos below, let me just say that you absolutely do not need to make everything from scratch! While some items are pretty easy to make at home and would likely be cost prohibitive or difficult to find in the store (like avocado crema), there’s nothing wrong with grabbing a pack of tortillas or a packet of taco seasoning.
If you’ve got a local Mexican market, I highly suggest checking out their cheese offerings. I personally steered clear of pre-made Mexican cheeses this time around because I’m pregnant, and these cheeses are sometimes made from raw milk. While most cheese sold in the US is actually pasteurized and safe, I decided to take it one step further and make my own cheese, just to be on the safe, safe side. Plus… Homemade cheese is the bomb!
Ok. Baja Fish Tacos. Let’s go!
Layer One: Tortillas
As you can see in the delicious picture above (that’s really making me wish we had some leftovers right about now!), the first layer is a corn tortilla. I simply followed the recipe on my bag of masa to make 18 tortillas.
I do recommend a tortilla press, since rolling out corn tortillas doesn’t help you achieve the size or texture you really want. I don’t have one and tried to roll with my trusty old beer bottle (seriously, I need a rolling pin), and our tortillas were, well, unique.
Also, you’ll definitely want some plastic wrap to use when pressing the tortillas, since they’re prone to breaking. Additionally, keep some fluffy kitchen towels on hand to insulate your tortillas and keep them nice and warm while the others in the batch cook.
Layer Two: The Fish
Obviously the fish is the main component of the fish taco, so it’s important to pay attention here. I paid such great attention, that I honestly can’t even tell you what type of fish I bought, other than that it was white fish. Judge, if you will.
Anyway, the application is the same, regardless of which fish you do end up with – though definitely stick with a white fish here. Of course, a seared ahi with taco inspired seasoning might be delicious, but that’s a topic for another time.
Prior to prepping the fish, you’ll want to make your taco seasoning. I used cumin, chili powder, paprika, cayenne and salt. That’s my taco jam. Consider adopting it.
Mix the seasoning in a bowl. Slap on both sides of the fish. Then cook your fish at 425 for 10-20 minutes, or until the fish flakes when prodded with a fork. You’ll know when it’s done.
Fun fact: if you put your baking sheet into the oven as it preheats, it’ll get warm enough to make a nice little sizzle when you plop the fish onto it. If you’re grill-less like we are, this might be as close as you get to a good “blackened” fish fillet.
Layer Three: Purple Cabbage
Question: Do we really need a whole section about purple cabbage?
Most So-Cal tacos have some kind of cabbage slaw on them. It is very delicious. There are also so many varieties, that’s it’s hard to even pin down exactly what a fish taco cabbage slaw is supposed to taste like.
I enjoy fermenting things. But I also enjoy not fermented cabbage.
Actually, I don’t enjoy cabbage. But I knew it had to be included with our fish tacos. So I cut up a small purple cabbage into rough shreds and let it hang out in the juice of half a lemon while I prepared the rest of dinner.
For a not-cabbage-loving girl, I happened to enjoy this quite a bit. So do it when you make the tacos. You can thank me with a rolling pin as a gift.
Layer Four: Avocado Crema
What is one way to make avocados even better? Make them creamier!
Yes, I’m a Millennial, and yes, I put avocados in everything. I don’t own a home, so yeah, I probably fit into all of your avo-stereotypes. Glad we cleared that up.
Ok, avocado crema. You could make the tacos without this. But don’t. It’s so easy and delicious that your fish will hop off of the taco and slap you if you don’t slather it in a creamy green avo-blanket.
To make the crema, simply add one avocado to your blender bowl, toss in the juice of one to one and a half lemons (depending on how juicy your lemons are), some salt, and about a quarter of a cup of sour cream. Blend. Eat with a spoon.
Or spoon onto your tacos. Yes. That. You have avocado crema in your moustache. Wait, nope. Carry on.
Layer Five: Queso Fresco, Blanco, or Basically any Soft Crumbly Cheese
If you’ve ever made simple cheese at home, you’ll probably recognize the process for making a queso fresco or blanco of your own. Pinterest couldn’t agree on what this is actually called, but I referred loosely to a recipe for queso blanco (supposedly), and I’ll name my cheese accordingly.
Simple Mexican cheese is made without rennet (calf stomach lining), so it doesn’t melt or take a super long time to make or cure. So I make this cheese. Because easy.
I started by boiling half a gallon of milk mixed with two teaspoons of salt in my biggest soup pot. Then, I added a quarter of a cup of apple cider vinegar and stirred to help encourage the separation of curds from whey. After this, I let the mixture sit for seven minutes.
When the seven minute period had elapsed, I poured the entire mixture of curds and whey into a colander I’d lined with a muslin cheesecloth.
Some people save the whey by putting the colander into a large bowl. I never know what to do with leftover whey, so I put it down the drain, but the sustainability police will probably be here in the morning to arrest me for wasting the whey. Sorry about that.
At this point, my curds were happily resting in the cheesecloth, so I took the cloth by the corners and tied the bundle tightly around the cheese mass at the bottom. Then I put one of the rubber band loops over my kitchen faucet and let the cheese drip out any remaining whey for about an hour.
Once the curds are nice and dry, many people “can” the cheese – that is, they press it into a can mold to give it a distinctive shape and impress all of their friends. I had no cans at the ready, so I put the cheese curds (still in their cloth) on an inverted plate and set a pot with some water over top to press the cheese into shape. This is the same method I use when I make paneer (Indian cheese), so I’m probably guilty of some massive crime of cultural appropriation here. But I made tasty cheese, so…
(Also, why am I confessing all of my cooking offenses here?!)
Putting it all Together
Now, I made my layers at separate times throughout the day, so that dinner would pretty much prepare itself. If you’re going to make my Baja Fish Tacos, you can technically make everything at dinnertime, except for the cheese. You’re going to want to prepare that early in the day if you’re making tacos for dinner. Or prepare it a day or two in advance, if you don’t think you’ll have time the day of.
Other than that, there’s no real science behind the tacos. Pile yours high with whatever speaks to you and go to town.
Make delicious blackened fish tacos from scratch with an avocado crema, queso blanco, masa tortillas and purple cabbage recipe that's sure to please.
- 1/2 gallon whole milk
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tps paprika
- 1 tps kosher salt
- 1 tps cayenne powder
- 1 small head purple cabbage
- 1/2 or 1 juiced lemon or lime
- 1 avocado
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1-2 juiced lemons or limes
Add milk and salt to a large stockpot.
Bring to a boil (don’t mind the skin that forms on top of the milk).
Remove boiling milk from heat and immediately add the vinegar.
Stir until the curds separate from the whey.
Let sit for seven minutes.
Drain through colander lined with cheesecloth.
Gather corners of cheesecloth, secure with rubber band and let drain for one hour (hanging from the kitchen faucet is a good idea, if you’ve got the room).
Take curds and place them into a form of your choice (I use an inverted plate) and let sit for half an hour.
Eat immediately or store in refrigerator, wrapped in foil or wax paper, for up to a week.
Follow instructions on your masa bag. Basic masa tortilla recipe here.
Preheat oven to 425(F).
Place your baking vessel in the oven as it heats.
Meanwhile, combine all seasonings in one bowl and mix.
Coat each fish fillet liberally in seasoning mix, taking care to cover front, back, and any exposed sides.
Remove baking vessel from oven once heated, place fillets carefully onto tray.
Put fish into oven for 10-20 minutes.
Fish is done when it flakes easily when prodded with a fork.
Cut cabbage into rough strips.
Place in bowl with citrus juice and let sit for 30 minutes.
Combine ingredients in blender pitcher.
Blend until smooth.
Add lemon juice until the crema reaches desired consistency.
Layer 1: Tortilla – Place tortilla flat on plate.
Layer 2: Fish – Add a piece from a blackened fish fillet onto tortilla.
Layer 3: Cabbage – Put a little (or a lot) cabbage over top of your fish.
Layer 4: Avocado Crema – Drizzle avocado crema over the fish and cabbage pile. You could even get fancy by putting it into a squirt bottle, but a spoon works fine, too.
Layer 5: Crumble some of that queso over top of the whole kit and kaboodle (do people even say that?) and head off on a voyage to Taco-Town!