The warm weather finally arrived. And if you live in Texas like I do, by warm I mean hot. I am personally not a big fan of torrid weather mostly because here in Austin, summers seem to never end. It's always hot and the cold weather seems to last for 2 weeks max. Back home in Romania, I was used to eating hearty food year-round, but it just doesn't feel right in this heat. My appetite diminishes. I crave simple, refreshing and easy dishes like tacos.
I am a taco fan, but my girlfriend is their number one fan. She's a taco groupie. As a matter of fact, she's fairly convinced that tacos are the ultimate food. She will have them for breakfast, lunch, dinner or as a snack. You know how they say that there are seasonal dishes? Hearty and heavy during the colder months, and light and simple during the warmer ones? Well for Roni the taco season lasts all year long (and most Austinites would agree).
And you know what? She's right. Tacos are awesome! What's great about them is that they can be done with minimal effort and cooking skills. Heck, you can build them based on personal preference! If you're a health freak grill your protein, add veggies and go easy on the cheese and salsas. If you're a filthy animal like me, pan-roast your protein and then load your tacos with cheese instead of veggies and top everything with your favorite salsa (a few recipes to come).
The choices are endless. Next time you plan a trip to Austin, go to Veracruz, TacoDeli, Taco More or Papalote and experience it for yourself. You will find all sorts of tacos from pork or fish to cauliflower or beans. Put eggs in them and call them breakfast tacos. You can't go wrong with tacos.
I consider myself a newbie to the taco scene. I ate them for the first time 4 years ago when I moved to Austin from Hungary. I clearly remember that moment- I had a Baja Shrimp and a Mr. Pink at Torchy's. From that minute I knew that I had to start making them for myself.
My obsession with tacos escalated to the point where I turned my sister into a taco junkie. Two years ago she visited me and stayed for 2 weeks. I took her to different places so she can experience the Austin food scene, but the one thing she kept mentioning (and still does when we Skype) are the tacos. She became addicted to them. She was so desperate that when she returned to Hungary she packed (read: loaded) fresh cilantro and bottles of salsa in her luggage. Ever since I call her the Pablo Escobar of cilantro.
Over the years I have tried several recipes and experimented with non-conventional ingredients only to come to the same conclusion - keep it simple. As I was playing with the different variations and flavors I became more and more interested in breakfast tacos and fish tacos, as they are the two types of tacos that people are most opinionated about. I've tried several spice combinations for blackening the fish and I can confidently say that after 4 years I found the perfect one.
The combination of flavors in this recipe is amazing. The sweetness of the mango will cancel out the tartness of the pickled onions and the heat of the jalapeños, while the warm tortilla and flakey fish chunks will melt in our mouth.
Now enough with the talk, let's get down to business. Ladies and gentlemen, I present you with the perfect Blackened Fish Taco!
BLACKENED FISH TACOS WITH PICKLED ONIONS AND MANGO SALSA
Prep time: 35 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Blackened Fish Tacos
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp Hungarian paprika
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 big tilapia fillets (replace with sea bass, flounder, halibut, catfish, cod)
- 1/2 cup peanut oil (or canola oil, or sunflower seeds oil)
- 2 TBS unsalted butter
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 sprigs rosemary or thyme
- 9-12 tortillas (corn, wheat or flour)
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 10-15 black peppercorns, whole
- 3 whole cloves, whole
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 big red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup carrots, julliened or grated
- 1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted and diced
- 1/2 bell pepper, diced
- 3 green onions, sliced
- 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
- 1 jalapeño, deseeded and diced
- 1/2 poblano pepper, deseeded and diced
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
- salt, to taste
Blackened Fish Tacos
- In a small bowl combine smoked paprika, Hungarian paprika, garlic and onion powder, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper.
- Dry the fillets thoroughly with paper towels then coat each fish fillet with plenty of spice mix. Let them rest for 10 minutes at room temperature.
- In a large cast iron skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is sizzling, add the fillets and cook for 3 minutes on each side.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the butter, crushed garlic and the sprigs of aromatic herbs. Continue cooking the fillets turning them over a few times (so that they brown evenly) and basting with the lightly browned butter. Cook for about 3 more minutes until fish is white and opaque.
- Transfer the fillets to a serving platter and let it rest for a few minutes.
- Break up the fish into chunks and assemble the tacos on a warm tortilla (corn is my personal favorite) by adding pickled onions and mango salsa.
- In a small saucepan mix vinegar, water, brown sugar, peppercorns, bay leaves, cloves and salt.
- Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Whisk for about 5 minutes until all sugar is dissolved.
- Add onions and carrots to the pan and gently stir to combine. Remove from the heat after 1 minute.
- Let the mixture cool down to room temperature then transfer it to a mason jar or to a hermetic glass container.
- I prefer the way they taste after refrigerated for at least an hour.
- In a medium bowl mix mango, bell pepper, green and red onions, garlic, cilantro, jalapeño and poblano peppers. Squeeze the lime all over the salsa and season with pepper and salt to your liking. Toss and combine.
- Keep refrigerated for an hour before serving. That way the flavors will blend and the salsa (pico) will taste a lot better.