Baja Fish Tacos at the Celtic Festival in DOA
“Wow!” She walked round him in a circle, goggling. “Roger, you are gorgeous!” She smiled, a trifle lopsided. “My mother always said men in kilts were irresistible. I guess she was right.”
He saw her swallow hard, and wanted to hug her for her bravery, but she had already turned away, gesturing toward the main food area.
“Are you hungry? I had a look while you were changing. We’ve got our choice between octopus-on-a-stick, Baja fish tacos, Polish dogs–”
He took her arm and pulled her round to face him.
“Hey,” he said softly. “I’m sorry; I wouldn’t have brought you if I’d know it would be a shock.”
“It’s all right.” Her smile was better this time. “It’s — I’m glad you brought me.”
“Yeah. Really. It’s –” She waved helplessly at the tartan swirl of noise and color all around them. It’s so — Scottish.”
Diana Gabaldon, Drums of Autumn (Chapter 4 – A Blast from the Past)
You can say alot of things about Bree…but she’s brave.
Brave to the point of stupidity — which she pays for further down the line — much like her sire, AND her mother for that matter. Instinctual courage: nature and nurture?
Probably a little bit of both. (She’s got more than a little bit of Frank in her, after all.)
For now, her only decision is what to eat. And because she’s a bit distracted, I’ve made the choice for her.
The Baja fish tacos available in 1969 at a Celtic Festival in the mountains outside of Boston would have looked quite different than mine. Bree and Roger would have likely munched down on some heavily battered cod laid on top of shredded iceberg lettuce, smothered with a bland mayonnaise sauce and wrapped in a cardboard-like tortilla. I don’t even want to think about the octopuses-on-sticks.
On the streets of Baja today, you’re more likely to find some lightly breaded, crispy-fried white-fish fillets wrapped in a soft homemade corn tortilla, garnished with cabbage and drizzled with lime-spiked Mexican crèma.
But battering/breading fish can be verra involved and messy…and there’s already lots of crunch from the cabbage, bell pepper and onion, so I took my Baja fish tacos the route of light, fresh, flavourful and fast by searing the spice-rubbed pieces quickly in an oil-brushed pan.
(Click on the title below for a printable version of the recipe.)
A lighter, healthier and flavour-packed version of the fish tacos Bree & Roger encountered at the Fair outside of Boston in 1969.
- Mayonnaise – ½ C
- Milk – 2 Tble
- Lime, juice and zest – 1
- Garlic, minced – 1 clove
- Firm White Fish (halibut, cod, tilapia, etc), in skinless fillets – 1½-2 lbs
- Ground Cumin – 1 tsp
- Ground Coriander – 1 tsp
- Salt – ½ tsp
- Chili Flakes – pinch
- Veg Oil – 1 tsp
- Cabbage, shredded – 2 cups
- Red Pepper, sliced – ½ small
- Red Onion, sliced – ½ small
- Cilantro, chopped – handful
- Salt & Pepper – to taste
- Corn tortillas, store bought or homemade, warm – 8 (recipe)
- Lime wedges, for garnish
Read all of the instructions through before you start.
Mix all of the white sauce ingredients together, cover, and set in the fridge until ready to serve.
Cut the fish into (8) 1-1½” wide pieces. Mix together the cumin, coriander salt and chili flakes, then season the fish generously on all sides.
Toss together the cabbage, red pepper, onion and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Heat a heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium heat for 3-5 minutes. When hot, brush the pan lightly with vegetable oil, then add the fish pieces. Fry until the bottom half of the flesh begins to turn opaque. Gently flip the fish and fry until cooked through — the timing will depend on the thickness of the fillets. Remove to a plate and tent lightly with foil to keep warm.
Fill each tortilla with a small handful of cabbage slaw and a drizzle of sauce, then top with a piece of fish and more sauce. Serve with lime wedges.
Ith gu leòir! (Eat Plenty)
- The fish in my pictures is halibut. (expensive, but local and in-season for us)
- To warm the tortillas, wrap the stack in a clean, lightly damp dish towel and set in a 250° F. for 15-20 minutes.
- These make great cold leftovers the next day.