Granted, I don’t live in Paris or Provence. Or Ireland, Cape Cod or Saugatuck. Or any of the myriad other locales that regularly fill my residential fantasies.
But I do live in Ann Arbor, which is pretty great. And I need to start appreciating that. Much like the lyric of the fabulous Sheryl Crow-“it’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got”. A tough but important little lesson to learn.
So when I was trying to figure out something profound and interesting to say about fish tacos, and repeatedly coming up empty (other than the usual, Man, were they good!), I decided that this would be an opportunity to start a semi-regular feature on my town, its businesses and unique little spots and nooks that make it such a great place to live.
The fish, pollock that is, which served as the star ingredient, was purchased at Monahan’s Seafood in the charming enclave of Kerrytown.
Not only do they have deliciously fresh fish on offer (it ain’t cheap) but they have a quite packed lunch counter that serves the best fish and chips I’ve had this far from the Atlantic.
It can take some effort to manage a spot here on a Farmers Market Saturday, since Kerrytown is the sight of the twice-weekly and massive local event (more on that later, if this is indeed going to be, and I hope that it is, a regular feature here).
So the boyfriend had no idea that he’d be taking my camera when he went off to Market for his weekly provisions on Sunday morning . We had already consumed the fish tacos before I decided to feature Monahan’s. He did the embarrassing photo bombing for once instead of me but I think he secretly liked contributing. He was a very good sport. All on-site pictures were taken by him. Nice job Samuel!
The fish tacos were eaten by us both. And I love me some fish tacos. These were slightly different from the usual, with the Spanish flavors, inspired by a recently acquired giant vat of Marcona almonds as well as a recipe I saw on the Rachael Ray shows months ago. I don’t know how I remembered it but it must have struck me. Searching on her website is no easy task. Searching Grilled Romesco Sauce yields over 1,700 results on her site alone. Something’s wrong there. Anyways, so I desperately need to upload my version of this recipe before I lose it again.
There’s plenty of worthwhile steps here, from pickling onions to blackening red peppers and tomatoes, so make these on Saturday.
The leftovers made a mighty delicious salad the next day. So good in fact, that I just might skip the tortilla next time.
Fish Tacos, Spanish Style
For the toppings
- 1/2 small red cabbage, thinly sliced
- handful chopped parsley
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced and pickled (see below)
- juice of 1/2 a lime (or lemon)
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- salt & pepper
First, pickle the onions. Bring 1 cup water, 2 tablespoons red wine or cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil. Reduce to simmer and add the onions. Simmer for about 20 minutes and while you move on to the next task. Remove onions to a small bowl to cool.
Next, whisk an easy vinaigrette for the slaw using the honey, lime juice, salt and pepper and olive oil. Add to sliced cabbage and chopped parsley. Allow to sit until serving time.
For the Romesco Sauce
- 1 slice white bread, toasted (I used an English muffin!)
- 1 whole head garlic
- 2 red peppers
- 2 tomatoes
- 1 serrano chili
- 1 red onion, cut into chunks
- 1/2 cup Marcona almonds
- 2 splashes Sherry vinegar
- fresh thyme (optional)
- olive oil
Preheat oven to 400°. Slice the top off the garlic head and place on enough foil to wrap it. Drizzle a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap the head and roast in the oven for 20 minutes. This can happen while you’re grilling the veggies. Allow to cool, then squeeze each clove out of its skin and place in a food processor.
Grill the red peppers (and the serrano) whole on your outdoor grill or directly on, one at a time, on your stove top burner, making sure to turn until almost every bit is black. Place on counter and cover with a large bowl so that they steam (thank you to the brilliant Joanne Weir for that tip!)
Preheat a stainless steel skillet over a medium high flame and add the tomatoes whole. Turn until blistered, but not totally blackened, on all sides and allow to steam with the peppers. In the same skillet add a little olive oil and grill the onion chunks on all sides so that they blacken a bit. Cool.
Cut the peppers in half and remove the inside and the stem. Next, peel the peppers using your hands and scraping with a knife. Some black bits are okay. Also peel what you can of the tomatoes but don’t worry about getting all the skin off since they’re going in a food processor.
Add vegetables to a food processor along with the toasted bread, Marcona almonds, sherry vinegar, garlic, thyme and salt and pepper. Pulse and stream in about a 1/4 cup of olive oil until thickened but not totally smooth (about 5 pulses). You will have lots of leftover romesco which is good with crackers, tortillas or on salmon burgers.
For the tacos
- 1 1/2 or 2 lbs. pollock (or any fish in the cod family)
- 1 package whole grain tortillas
- seafood seasoning
- smoked paprika (optional)
- salt & pepper
- 1 lemon, halved
- olive oil for pan grilling
Dry the fish with paper towels and sprinkle with seafood seasoning, salt, pepper and 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (if using). Allow to sit for a few minutes while you prepare the toppings.
Pre-heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. Add fish and cook for about 4 minutes per side or until flaky. Add the juice of the lemon at the end.
Now you are ready to assemble your tacos. Blister tortillas over a burner (or heat in microwave for a few seconds) and wrap in a kitchen towel.
tortilla + fish + cabbage slaw + pickled onions + romesco sauce + squeeze of lime = one amazing taco (and one long recipe).
I served them with wedged limes and lemons and a kale salad with avocado and some of the pickled onions.