By AMERICA’S TEST KITCHEN
A surfside treat, California fish tacos feature battered and fried crispy white fish and sprightly pickled vegetables. When done right, they are light and fresh, with a lively mix of textures and flavors.
This recipe may look involved, but the components come together quickly, so invite your friends to help. The frying uses a mere 3/4-inch layer of oil (no splattering vats).
We made an ultrathin batter by adding two sources of carbonation, beer and baking powder; they provided lift and their slight acidity limited gluten development. Frying in batches helped maintain the oil’s temperature.
For toppings, we quick-pickled onion and jalapeños and then used the brine to brighten shredded cabbage. Slice fish on the bias if your fillets are not 4 inches wide. Serve with green salsa if desired.
Start to finish: 1 hour
Pickled Onion and Cabbage:
¯1 small red onion, halved and sliced thin
¯2 jalapeno chiles, stemmed and sliced into thin rings
¯1 cup white wine vinegar
¯2 tablespoons lime juice
¯1 tablespoon sugar
¯Salt and pepper
¯3 cups shredded green cabbage
¯2 pounds skinless white fish fillets, such as cod, haddock, or halibut
¯Salt and pepper
¯3/4 cup all-purpose flour
¯1/4 cup cornstarch
¯1 teaspoon baking powder
¯1 cup beer
¯1 quart peanut or vegetable oil
¯18 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed
¯1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
¯1 cup crema
For the Pickled Onion and Cabbage: Combine onion and jalapeños in medium bowl. Bring vinegar, lime juice, sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt to boil in small saucepan. Pour vinegar mixture over onion mixture and let sit for at least 30 minutes, or refrigerate for up to 2 days. Transfer 1/4 cup pickling liquid to second medium bowl, add cabbage, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss to combine.
For the Tacos: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 F. Set wire rack in rimmed baking sheet. Cut fish crosswise into 4 by 1-inch strips. Pat dry with paper towels; season with salt and pepper. Whisk flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt together in large bowl. Add beer and whisk until smooth. Add fish and toss to coat evenly.
Add oil to large Dutch oven until 3/4 inch deep. Heat over medium-high heat to 350 F.
Remove 5 or 6 pieces of fish from batter, allowing excess to drip back into bowl, and add to hot oil, briefly dragging fish along surface of oil to prevent sticking. Adjust burner, if necessary, to maintain oil temperature between 325 F and 350 F. Fry fish, stirring gently to prevent pieces from sticking together and turning as needed, until golden brown and crisp, about 8 minutes.
Using slotted spoon or spider skimmer, transfer fish to prepared wire rack and place in oven to keep warm. Return oil to 350 F and repeat with remaining fish. Serve fish and pickled onions and cabbage with tortillas, cilantro, and crema.
Nutrition information per serving: 699 calories; 307 calories from fat; 35 g fat ( 5 g saturated; 1 g trans fats); 65 mg cholesterol; 530 mg sodium; 59 g carbohydrate; 6 g fiber; 7 g sugar; 33 g protein.