Sunday, July 28, 2013

Halibut Tacos... or Turkey of the Sea Heads South of the Border

It's no secret that I'm a strong advocate of substituting wild game into everyday recipes. One of my favorites is Mexican food, or at the very least- Tex-Mex. One of my very favorite substitutions is quickly becoming a favorite in it's own right. Halibut tacos. Not the usual bland Seattle version which is  just stewed or steamed fish rolled into a tortilla (although it can be good) but a spicier version for a more adventuresome palate.

There are a bunch of recipes out there and many of them are good, but here's one of my favorites.

1 lb of halibut chunks (substitute any mild white fish if you wish)
3-4 flour tortillas ( I like burrito size to maximize the fish to flour ratio, but any will work)
3 cups cornflake crumbs
2-3 Tsp of chili powder and spices (to taste)
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup shredded Monterey or Pepper Jack cheese
1 small carrot
2 tsp of ranch dressing

Take a filet of halibut (roughly a pound or so) and cut into chucks about 1.5" square. Halibut cheeks are perfect if you have some but any halibut pieces will do. This recipe is ideal for the big halibut whose flakes are frequently too large to make a more traditional dish. With your fish in chunks take a bowl and fill it with cornflake crumbs- yep, pulverized cornflakes. Season it o taste with chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, lemon pepper and a dash or two of salt. Remember, halibut has a very mild flavor and is easily overpowered so take it easy until you figure it out.

Take a separate bowl and fill it with a cup of buttermilk, or if you're running low on buttermilk take regular milk and add a shot of lemon or lime juice to clabber. One of my favorite variations is to give the milk a healthy shot of Sriracha Hot Sauce. Take the halibut pieces and submerge in the milk and then dredge in the corn flake crumbs. Place them on a lightly greased baking sheet or casserole dish and pop them in the oven at 350 for about 20-25 minutes until cooked through. Many people consider overcooking halibut a mortal sin but in this preparation a little firmer texture won't hurt a thing.

While that cooks up you'll want to shred a small head of cabbage with a small carrot if you like. Take the tortillas and steam lightly or microwave for 10 seconds to soften. When the fish is done, layer in several pieces on the tortilla and top with some of the shredded cabbage. Most recipes call for coleslaw dressing at this point but I think it's frequently either too sweet or too vinegary and overpowers the fish. To balance the flavors I use a teaspoon or two of ranch dressing and a sprinkle of shredded pepper jack or monterey jack cheese.

You can do an endless variation depending on your taste- some goods ones are banana or tamed jalepenos, sweet corn kernels, tomatoes or black beans. Just remember, halibut is the centerpiece of this dish- not just protein filler.  For the very adventuresome you can roll up ceviche- that true equatorial Mexican dish that features fish "cooked" in citrus acid. I personally don't do halibut ceviche because the acid won't kill the parasites common in northern flatfish but if you had some truly deep frozen sushi grade halibut you could try it out but it's generally a treat on it's on.

Roll it up burrito style or simply folded and filled and enjoy with a side of Spanish rice.


Should Fish More said...

Looks excellent! I do similar tacos with cod, grouper if I can get it or rockfish.

I like spicy, so I've tried various things: tartar sauce with siracha, hot salsa, etc. It all works, but I've found the main thing is the fish have a crunchy texture on the outside for contrast to the soft corn taco. I used to tone it down for the kids when they were younger.

hodgeman said...

I've made these once with some rockfish that I pan blackened.

Different but good. I'm headed out soon for a fishing adventure and I hope I can get a few halibut and a ling cod as well as some rockfish for the freezer.

I'm willing to try about any recipe you throw my way!

Unknown said...

I have tried making homemade tacos and I am thinking of a healthier alternative to meat. This Halibut would be perfect for this one. Thanks a lot!