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Chipotle Fish Tacos with Red Cabbage Slaw
Yep, it's that time of year again. Tell me you’re Catholic without telling me…wait. Does this count as telling you? I don’t know. Doesn’t matter. These tacos are a slam dunk any day of the week Lent or otherwise. If you have the time to fry them, anyway.
Salt & Pepper
Panko (Yes. I use both)
Yeah, I know. The list is daunting, and I have given you zero numbers to work with. Super helpful, Mike. Thanks a million. (I did warn you about this several times).
Before I get into the finer details, there are a couple notes on the ingredients. First up is the fish. Any white fish will probably do. You could probably even shake it up and use shrimp, but I don’t like working with shrimp if it doesn’t come from Home Chef.
I’m not snobby or anything. It’s just that unpeeled shrimp scare the poop out of me.
Anyway, uh, onto the cabbage. I would tell you to get a small red cabbage, but in my experience, these simply do not exist. Just get whatever you can and accept that most of it will probably end up forgotten in the back of your fridge. Alternatively, make fish tacos every night for a couple weeks. Up to you.
This is (potentially) the most time consuming recipe in my collection. I get faster every time I make it, but it still feels like it takes a while to bring it all together.
Prepare Your Ingredients
Chop your fish nibs:
Is that gross? That feels gross. Anyway, how you approach this is up to you, but keep in mind that smaller pieces means you spend more time breading & frying, so find a middle ground somewhere between filet and bite-sized and save yourself some time.
Slice the cabbage:
Here’s the thing, ok, I always (and I mean always) prepare too much cabbage. You probably will too. It’s ok.
Pull off a few leaves, and then slice them into thin strips. You want them to be thick enough that you get a little bit of a crunch, but if you make them too thick, you’re going to end up punching your taste buds with cabbage, which may not be the flavor profile you’re looking for.
Assemble your breading:
For the breading, combine the bread crumbs, panko, chipotle power, and salt/pepper into a mixing bowl. Make sure the bowl is large enough to contain the mixture and to dunk your fish nibs in it. The regular breadcrumbs are going to help coat the fish thoroughly, and the panko is going to give it a nice crunch.
When it comes to the chipotle powder, how much you add is up to you. You want to make sure you can taste the smoky goodness when it’s all done, so make sure you can smell it in the breading mixture, and if you want to ramp up the heat, you can toss in more chipotle powder, or add some other spices as well.
Bread the Fish Nibs
Time for the fun part. At this point, you’ve got a bowl of breading ready to roll. Now grab another bowl and crack those eggs. You’ll need about one egg for every filet you started with. Whisk that egg together. Now get yet another bowl. (Sorry about the dishes), and pour some flour in there.
This next bit is messy. I apologize.
Right now you need to make a decision. You’ll need two hands for this job—one for the dry coating (flower & breading), and one for the wet coating (the eggs). You can decide which is which, but you need to stick to that decision until this is over, or you’re going to have a bad time.
What you want to do is take your fish nibs, and coat them in flour first. Plop a couple nibs into the bowl, and toss them around until they’ve got a good layer of flour all around.
Next, toss them in the eggs. Get them nice and juicy. Yeah. that was disgusting, but it’s too late to take it back now. Um, just make sure there aren’t any massive dry patches of flour left.
From there, move on to the breading. Roll those nibs around in that smoky, crispy breading until they are good and coated, then set the fully breaded nibs aside on a plate or cutting board or whatever.
Rinse and repeat until everything is ready to fry. Well, don't rinse them. That would kind of defeat the purpose of what you just did.
Red cabbage slaw is a perfect fish taco topping. Don’t argue with me on this one. You’re wrong. It’s easy to make too, so this is a win-win. Get a large enough mixing bowl to contain the excessive amount of cabbage you chopped earlier, and toss it all in. Next, add the agave and lime juice.
How much agave? No idea. How much lime juice? As much as necessary. This is a “to taste” situation. The key here is that you don't want a soupy smattering of soggy cabbage. It needs to keep the crunch. That's kind of the point of the slaw.
You want enough agave to coat the cabbage and sweeten it up a little bit since it’s pretty bitter on its own, and the lime juice is going to add a nice pop of citrus, which is pretty much a necessity with fish tacos if you ask me.
Toss the cabbage around until it’s all nice and coated, and then set it aside for later.
To Guac or Not to Guac
The avocados are next. When I make these tacos, I like to make guacamole, because it’s easier to work with when I’m assembling everything. I can get a nice spread on the tortilla that really kind of serves as a glue to hold everything together. But if slices are more your speed, that’s cool too.
If you go the guac route, keep it simple. Mash the avocado, throw in some salt & pepper, and call it a day. You could add some other stuff (tomato, or onion), but in this particular case, it’s not really necessary. A simple avocado spread works just as well.
Cook the Fish Nibs
I’ve committed to using “fish nibs” now. It’s too late to turn back.
If you have an air fryer, this part is pretty easy. Plop the fish into the basket on a single layer. Set the temp to 350, and run it for about 8-10 minutes. Rinse and repeat as necessary until all the fish is cooked.
Again, don’t actually rinse the fish at this point. That would be stupid. It’s just a turn of phrase, ok? I find it really weird that I have to keep telling you this.
The Slow Option
If you don’t have an air fryer, don’t sweat. It’s going to require a little more hands on effort to cook all the fish, but it will still taste good in the end.
Get a decent sized pan on a medium heat, and drizzle a little olive oil in there. When it’s all nice and hot, drop the fish (carefully) into the pan, and let it cook in that bubbly oil until its heated through. You’ll probably want to flip the nibs a couple times with some tongs to get a nice golden brown color on the breading.
The cook time will vary quite a bit depending on the size and shape of your nibs. I usually run it about 2-3 minutes per side when I’m doing it this way.
Assemble that Fishy Goodness
That’s right. All your hard work is about to pay off. It’s taco time.
Grab your tortillas of choice, and get ready to roll. I’m a bit of a heathen, and prefer flour tortillas, but if you’re more into the corn approach, you do you. i won't judge.
I usually wrap my tortillas in paper towels and then heat them in the microwave for about 30-40 seconds.
When they’re ready, grab a tortilla and scoop a dollop of the guac-adjacent spread into the center of it, and then spread it around. Next, grab a couple fish nibs and drop those on top of the avocado. Top it with a bit of the cabbage slaw, and some crumbled / grated Cotija cheese, and you’re all set.
One last thing—odds are all that work made you thirsty, and these tacos pair really nicely with a mango chile margarita. You’re welcome.
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