Years of living in Southern California gave me a new perspective on comfort food. Authentic Baja fish tacos take me back to the cool breezes on the rocky beaches along the Southern California coast.
My mother and I would stop on our way south to San Diego at this little taco shop in Encinitas, Calif. called Juanita's.
At lunchtime, Juanita's would be packed with an equal number of locals dressed in suits taking a lunch break, and barefoot surfers tracking in saltwater and sand.
We'd buy a huge fish burrito to share or a couple of fish tacos each and grab a large squeeze bottle of hot sauce and some lime wedges. The freshly fried fish was salty and tender, and the creamy white sauce balanced the heat from the hot sauce we would slather on top of the tacos or burrito.
Sure, you could grill the fish for these tacos to make them healthier, but I'll stick with the original style for the perfect blend of texture and flavors.
Amy Nichol Smith covers features and entertainment for The Monitor.
Baja fish tacos
Combine flour, salt and pepper. Whisk in beer slowly. Allow the beer batter to rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
Mix everything together in a small bowl. Use less lime juice for a thicker consistency, or more for a thinner consistency. Keep refrigerated.
SALSA DE ARBOL
Preheat broiler, and line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.
Start by cutting off the stems of each chile, turn upside down and then roll the chile between your fingers -- the seeds will pour out. Then place chiles in a dry skillet over medium heat. Toast only until the chiles become fragrant and begin to change color.
Slice tomatillos in half and place cut side down on sheet pan along with garlic cloves. Broil for 5 to 10 minutes, turning the pan halfway through, until skin is charred.
Set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove skins from tomatillos and garlic and then place in a blender.
Add toasted chiles, chopped onion, vinegar, salt and enough water to begin blending. Puree until salsa comes together. Add more salt or vinegar to taste, and more water to thin salsa, if needed.
Serve at room temperature or chilled.
Heat about three inches of oil in a deep skillet, pot, or in a fryer, to 375 degrees F. Pat fish dry with paper towels and then season with salt and pepper. Dip strips of fish one at a time into the beer batter, and allow excess batter to drip off. Carefully slide coated fish into the hot oil. Fry fish for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Don't crowd the pan. Drain fish on rack or paper towels.
Serve fish in warm tortillas with cabbage, white sauce, salsa and a squeeze of fresh lime.
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