Saturday, April 16, 2011

Fish Tacos For Lunch.

Welcome to my fish tacos. We battered and fried cod filet pieces. I made a fresh spinach-chile sauce. A quick bath in hot oil for the white corn tortillas. Some under-the-broiler action for cheeses. A sprinkling of the scallions I just picked in my little planter box on the deck right outside my door. And we have lunch.
I'm making fish tacos, with a bit of a twist - a spinach and hot chili sauce to spice things up. The spinach sauce is adapted from a recipe in my Los Barrios cookbook, which we bought when we ate at Los Barrios in San Antonio, Texas, on our trip last fall. Let me preface this by saying that I am a seasoned capsaicin lover. Chiles are members of the Capsicum family and their heat range is diverse, ranging from mild to wild. The different capsaicin compounds found in chiles have slight structural variances in the hydrocarbons, thus changing their abilities to bind to the nerve receptors and their abilities to penetrate layers of receptors on the tongue, mouth, and throat. This explains why some chiles burn in the mouth immediately and others might have a delayed reaction or burn deep in the throat. Capsaicinoids, the particular class of substances that determine a chile's disposition, are not soluble in water, but very soluble in fats, oils, and alcohol. This is why drinking ice water after eating a habanero won't stop the burn, but downing a cold beer might alleviate the heat. To get relief from a chile burn, the best remedy is to drink milk or eat ice cream, or have the ubiquitous sour cream as an accompaniment. Milk contains casein, a lipophilic, or fat-loving, substance that surrounds and washes away the fatty capsaicin molecules in much the same way that detergents wash away grease. Capsaicinoids are unique to other spicy substances in that capsaicin causes a long-lasting selective desensitization to the pain and discomfort, as a result of repeated doses. This results in an increasing ability to tolerate even hotter foods. People that eat lots of spicy capsaicin-rich foods build up a tolerance to it, becoming somewhat desensitized to the heat factor, resulting in the ability to allow one's palate to explore the many diverse flavors offered by the myriad of chiles available. For some Chile-Heads, a good jolt of capsaicin excites the nervous system into releasing endorphins, which in turn promote a pleasant sense of well-being or euphoria - an endorphin "high," if you will, which can last several hours, and which can also make eating spicy foods slightly addictive. I'm using serrano chiles today simply because that's what's in my fridge. I used 3 serrano chiles in the spinach sauce. Serranos are hotter than jalapenos. They have a bright, biting flavor, with a bit of a delayed fuse. That said, take caution making this sauce. Perhaps you might want to start out with 1 serrano, taste, and continue from there. Spinach Sauce: 3 big handfuls of fresh spinach 2/3 cup vegetable broth 2/3 cup sour cream 3 serrano chiles 2 scallions Mix all in a blender. Taste test. Mr. Hawthorne said it was too hot for him - wussy- so I added in more sour cream. What I should have done for him was remove the seeds and ribs from the chiles since that's where the most of the heat is. The seeds themselves do not produce any capsaicin, but the highest concentration of capsaicin can be found in the white pith around the seeds. If you make the sauce, I'd start with one seeded chile first. Add more chiles to taste.
First, I chopped the chiles and scallions. I like heat, so I left the seeds in the chiles. I wouldn't recommend doing this unless you know the heat factor of your chile and the amount you're comfortable with. For the hotness of the chile, please check out the Scoville Heat Scale, the industry's standard for rating a pepper's punch. And pick your peppers accordingly.
I added the spinach, chiles, and scallions to my Blue Ninja and poured in the vegetable broth.
Add in the sour cream.
A little too much heat for Mr. Hawthorne so I added in some more sour cream to tone it down. I liked it just like it was. Apparently I've been desensitized. But next time, I'll leave the seeds out, in deference to Mr. Hawthorne's delicate palate. Oh my. Green is good.
Mr. Hawthorne sliced the cod into smaller pieces.
We're frying the cod today and I'm using a different batter this time. I happened upon one of those recipe sites that has "corporate" recipes and found Long John Silver's recipe for their battered fish. Hee. Daddy Hawthorne used to call that place "Long Jack Daniels." Long John Silver's Battered Fish 3 cups soybean oil 2 pounds fresh cod fillets 1 cup self-rising flour 1/3 cup dry mustard 1 cup water 1 egg 2 tsp sugar 2 tsp salt Sift mustard and flour. Heat oil to 400 degrees. Cut the fish into 7 x 2-inch wedges. With a mixer, blend the flour mixture, water, egg, sugar, and salt. Dip each fillet into the batter coating generously and quickly drop in the oil. Fry each fillet until dark golden brown about 5 minutes. Remove and drain.
With that recipe under my belt, I made alterations. Instead of the water, I used beer. I like the yeasty taste of beer in batters. The other change I made was to use 1/4 cup of the ground mustard instead of 1/3 cup and that was because I misread the recipe.
I sifted the self-rising flour (which I rarely use, but have on hand just in case) and the ground mustard.
Add in the egg and beer.
Whisk briskly. Briskly whisk. Say that 5 times real fast. Batter is ready.
Here's Mr. Hawthorne's new toy he bought me for my birthday. It's a laser thermometer. He's quite satisfied with this gadget. "The cat's meow," he says. When he first got this, he went throughout the house, not to mention my very own personal space, testing the temperatures of his environment. I still use the end of my wooden utensils to test my hot oil. And I'm always spot on. Mr. Hawthorne pouts that I don't use his toy as much as he wants me to. Youngest Hawthorne and I listened to this all last weekend, when my little baby bird came back to the nest for a quick visit with the Parental Units. We have since determined that Mr. Hawthorne's Lily White Ass is 84 degrees.
I took a white corn tortilla and bathed it 5 - 10 seconds on each side in hot oil. You don't want to fry it crisp. You just want fried and pliable. Drain on paper towels.
I love how these puffed up. I want to go in a different direction next time with these. I want to continue frying until crispy and golden-brown. Note to Rosie: Puffy Tacos!
I picked some of my asparagus and Mr. Hawthorne dunked pieces in the batter. Fry for about 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Lovely batter. I really don't know what the dry mustard might have added. I know I only added in 1/4 cup when the recipe called for 1/3 cup. But I don't know what mustard adds to the batter. I wouldn't have minded a poof of Old Bay. And some cayenne sprinkled on the asparagus would be quite tasty. At any rate, I love fried vegetables. My just-picked asparagus were delightful.
Mr. Hawthorne coated the cod filets with the beer batter. Figger on about 2-3 minutes fry-time for the cod pieces. Look at the color of the batter. You want a light golden brown. As always, do not crowd the pan. Crowding lowers the temperature of the oil and results in a greasy fried product - not crispy, not light.
Fried, yet pliable, corn tortillas in the back.
Fried asparagus. Fried cod. Delicate beer batter. What's not to love?
I took the lightly fried tortillas and placed them on a layer of the green sauce in my baking dish. I tucked the perfectly fried cod inside and zested some lime over top.
I closed the top parts of the corn tortillas over and weighted them down with grated Mozzarella and cheddar cheeses. Added a bit more green sauce on top. Pop these under the broiler until the cheeses are just the way you like them. I like a bit of a browning in my broiled cheeses, but you melt the cheese the way you like it.
Serve with sour cream, lime zest, spinach-chile sauce, and sliced scallions.
And it's healthy, what with all that fresh spinach. and fresh asparagus. Right?
I love this spinach sauce. I love Mr. Hawthorne's fried cod. Lightly fried corn tortillas. Fresh scallions that I grew. Sour cream. Zested lime. Oh, the cheeses. Exceptional meal.