Today was another one of those days where I was racking my brain to come up with some kind of taco that was new and different, but not too weird! Come to think of it, I've had a lot of those days lately! The higher the number on the recipe, the bigger the challenge becomes! What have I done? Ha ha.
When I'm having trouble coming up with an idea, I often ask my husband what he thinks I should make. This can backfire. For example, there's a good chance he'll say, "Fish tacos!" He likes the ones I've always made (in my pre-Taco Project days) - a version of the fish tacos served at Rubio's that I found in a 2000 issue of Gourmet magazine. They are delicious, but I've explained to him that they don't really qualify as part of my project. I'm trying to come up with new things!
After he suggested the fish tacos yet again, he mentioned buffalo chicken tacos. I said, "Well, I've already made buffalo turkey tacos (#64). You just missed them because you were at that art thing. They were really good!" He answered, "Well, if they were good, make them again!" I replied, "I can't - I need a new recipe or it won't count towards my one hundred!"
You see how these conversations can sometimes go. O.O
Then, he suggested making some kind of tilapia taco. Hmmm . . . there's an idea. I've made a few fish taco variations so far, but I haven't tried tilapia. I decided to go for it!
I was thinking of doing some kind of cornmeal crust - maybe with some Parmesan mixed in? It was sounding good, but I wasn't totally convinced. I did an internet search for fish recipes to get some inspiration and that's where I found the answer! Potato chips! A potato chip crust was just what I needed to give this recipe some pizazz!
I decided to go with the whole potato chip theme and add a creamy layer of green onions and sour cream. A sprinkle of cabbage was a no-brainer. I'm not sure why, but I was also compelled to create a flavorful tomato relish to give the whole thing a little extra kick. After I tasted the final product, the tomato element made sense. Hang in there with me. I'll explain it at the end! :)
Here's the recipe:
Potato Chip Crusted Tilapia Tacos with Tomato Relish and Tangy Green Onion Sour Cream
Serves 4-5 (about 8-10 tacos)
For the tomato relish:
Two medium Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/3 cup julienne sliced sun-dried tomatoes (Mine were not packed in oil.)
1 small clove garlic, peeled and trimmed
1 tsp. honey
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper
For the tangy green onion sour cream:
3/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup sliced scallions
1 and 1/2 tbsp. malt vinegar
1/2 tsp. garlic salt, plus more if desired
For the potato chip crusted catfish:
1 cup crushed potato chips (I used most of a 5 oz. bag)
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
1 lb. tilapia fillets
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Canola oil for frying
A few cups of coleslaw mix or thinly sliced green cabbage
Additional malt vinegar for garnish, if desired
1. Make the tomato relish: Place the Roma tomatoes into a high-powered blender or food processor. Pulse until they have broken down and released their juices. Add the remaining ingredients and blend/process until fairly smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. Cover and set aside.
2. Make the sour cream topping: Place all of the topping ingredients in a small bowl and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings. Cover and set aside. (You may want to store it in the refrigerator until serving time.)
3. Prepare the potato chip crust: Place the crushed chips, flour, garlic salt, and paprika in a shallow dish and stir to combine.
4. Cut the fish into strips. I ended up with about 25 pieces. The size is really up to you, as long they get fully cooked! :)
Break the eggs into a medium bowl and beat with a whisk. Add the fish and toss.
5. Add a few tablespoons of canola oil to a medium skillet until a depth of about 1/4 inch or so is reached. Heat the oil to about 360 degrees. When the oil is ready, take a few strips of the tilapia and allow the excess egg to drip off. Roll the strips in the potato chip mixture and add to the skillet. Fry until golden brown (turning halfway through), about 2 minutes on each side.
Remove from the oil and transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Do this in batches. It took me about five batches to cook mine, but it went pretty quickly! Keep the fish warm in a 250 degree oven. Repeat the process with the rest of the fish.
6. After the fish is fried, prepare the tortillas to your liking. When I am making tacos with soft corn tortillas, I heat a dry cast iron skillet over medium high heat. I place a large sheet of aluminum foil near the pan. I heat each tortilla in the skillet for about a minute or so on each side, or until it softens and begins to brown.
After each one is done, I place it on the foil and immediately start the next one. I stack them on top of one another as I work. When I'm done with the whole batch, I wrap them completely in the foil and place them in a 250 degree oven (along with the fish, in this case) until I'm ready to assemble the tacos. They always stay hot and soft! If there are leftovers, I heat fresh tortillas for the next meal.
7. Assemble the tacos: For each taco, place a tortilla on a plate. If you have thin corn tortillas, like I did, you can double them up! Place a few pieces of fish down the center of each tortilla. Spoon on some of the tomato relish. Top with some of the cabbage. Add a small dollop or two of the sour cream green onion topping. Finish with a splash of two of malt vinegar, if you wish. Enjoy!
Unfortunately, the fish itself was not our favorite. We don't eat a lot of tilapia. I had forgotten how different it is from some other types of fish. To me, it has a softer, less flaky texture and a distinctive flavor. I think these tacos would have KILLED if I had made them with cod. That could be just our personal taste, though. Tilapia is very popular right now, so a lot of people must like it! Don't get me wrong - we ate them and enjoyed them well enough, but we saw missed potential!
The fish looked and smelled just fine as I was preparing it, so I know it wasn't spoiled. Maybe it wasn't great quality tilapia - I just don't cook it enough to know!
Steve actually said that the tilapia reminded him of the fish that gets ground up to make fish sticks for elementary school kids.
I had a good laugh about that as I had some bad flashbacks of fish Fridays from my childhood. Ugh. Personally, I think he was exaggerating just a bit, but it was funny!
It might sound like I'm not recommending these. Nothing could be further from the truth! If you like tilapia, go for it! If tilapia's not your favorite, substitute cod and you'll be happy!
There were a couple of things about this recipe that came from my subconscious (I think) and only made sense at the end. I felt very strongly that the sour cream topping needed a little bit of malt vinegar to brighten it up. That makes sense, right? Fried fish? Fried potatoes? It's basically fish and chips, and I always put malt vinegar on that!
The tomato relish was still confusing me. Why had I added that? Well, once I tasted all of the recipe elements together in the finished product, I realized what the tomato relish tasted like - ketchup! Now, before you turn away in disgust, let me clarify - it tasted like a refined, flavorful, fancy ketchup.
I thought up a perfect way to describe these tacos:
If you were well on your way to being blackout drunk at a fake British pub (like in some random non-very-cool small town) and someone brought you a plate of fried fish, fried potatoes and creamy coleslaw which you then promptly doused with malt vinegar and ketchup and subsequently devoured, THESE TACOS would represent your vague memory of that meal, all wrapped up in a neat little package!
And it would be a GOOD memory. :)
I ran this description by Steve and he laughed and agreed. I also ran it by one of my sisters. She just said, "Ummm . . . you're not really selling those very well. Ha ha."
I guess it just depends on your perspective. Ha ha. I'd recommend them. With cod instead of tilapia. And a black and tan on the side. (Just not ten black and tans. You'll want to remember these the next day!)
Feel free to comment on this recipe! Did you try them? What did you think? Am I wrong about tilapia or do you agree?
Thanks for reading!