The first 18 years of my life were spent just a stone’s throw from the ocean. I grew up just a 20 minute drive from a real beach. Summers were spent on the water surrounded by farmlands. I’ve built more sandcastles than I can remember and stung by jellyfish I’ll never forget.
For those of you who don’t know, I grew up in Moncton, New Brunswick. I always clarify this as just north of Maine so people don’t think I grew up in New Jersey.
I didn’t wander too far for university (100 miles to be exact). And these past five months have been the first time in my life I haven’t been a short drive from salty air.
I have to admit, I have not bought fish since moving to Ontario. I grew up next to the Lobster Capital of the World where shellfish was literally eaten right off the boat. Fried clams, lobster rolls, fish n’ chips, clam chowder, mussels dipped in butter. These are things that Maritimers take a lot of pride in. They are things I grew up eating on the regular and never really thought twice about.
However, it seems my Maritime upbringing has failed me.
I unknowingly was missing out on one of the greatest seafood dishes of all.
I blame the British influence in the East. It wasn’t until I travelled to the other ocean that I learned there was a whole culture of seafood I was missing out on. Namely, Mexican.
Canada, we have got to get into this Mexican thing.
While at the Foodbuzz Festival in San Francisco, I attended a breakout session hosted by Alaskan Seafood. Susan Milliken, of Border Grill fame, demonstrated a couple varieties of her famous fish tacos. I was immediately hooked.
I got to try the fish tacos at the Tasting Pavillion and fell in love. The soft tortilla, flaky fish, chunky and spicy salsa with the cool sour cream. It was the perfect combination of textures and flavours. Not to mention an utter mess to eat.
Needless to say, I’ve been thinking of these fish tacos ever since. I’m no longer in the Maritimes, or on the West Coast, but that doesn’t mean I can’t bring a little spice to Mid-Eastern Canada.
I started with the above taco…
Haddock Fish Tacos with a Cucumber Citrus Salsa.
We were given recipe cards for the tacos and I totally lost them. No bother. It made recreating them even more fun. I had to do it from just one tantalizing memory!
I began with the salsa:
1 large cucumber, peeled and cubed
1 medium orange, segmented and chopped
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 jalepeno, minced (I’m sure Susan used a different pepper, but regular grocery stores in Canada don’t carry many choices!)
2 tbsp fresh cilantro
I didn’t want a whole bunch of salsa leftover, so I started small. Since all I could remember was the cucumber and orange from the recipe, I just went with what sounded like usual salsa ingredients for the rest!
But I need to work on my segmenting skillz. And a sharper knife.
I prepared the salsa the day before as these things usually taste best when they’ve had time to sit and mingle flavours.
The fish however, I was not on the ball with.
The Alaska Seafood people encouraged buying frozen fish. It’s usually flash frozen at its freshest, whereas the stuff in the fish market of your grocery store could be up to two weeks old! I went for Wild Pacific Haddock. Rather than defrosting it slowly like you’re supposed to, I let it thaw in hot water.
Then pan fried until just cooked. I do not like my fish overcooked at all so this is a step I’ve actually gotten pretty good at.
The key to my homemade fish tacos were the tortillas. I made those too!
I’ve actually done this before and it’s super simple. I really don’t know why more people don’t do it. Three ingredients:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbsp canola oil
1/3 – 1/2 cup hot water
Some people let it sit for a little bit. But by this point I was hungry and got to rolling.
Apparently, something else I need to work on.
Cooked in a medium-heat pan until brown and bubbly.
Here’s where some of Susan Milliken’s tips came in handy. To soften the tortilla before eating, quickly dunk it in water to make it more pliable. Then, when assembling your taco (or whatever you may have) put lettuce on the bottom to prevent the juicier ingredients from soaking through the tortilla.
I lettuce-d like a good girl, placed my flaky fish down, spooned a heap of salsa over top, and finished with a dab of plain yogurt.
First, the tortillas. Best idea ever. You could taste the better quality and they really brought the whole thing up a notch.
The salsa turned out fantastic. I am so proud of this little cucumber citrus salsa and can see myself making it time and time again! It’s so simple, versatile, and sounds way fancier than it really is.
The fish? Weellll, it’s not quite “off the boat” good. But not too shabby for my first inland foray into seafood. I can say fish tacos will definitely be added to my regular rotation of seafood dishes. I’ll be sure to whip up a batch for all my fellow fish lovers back home. Chased down with mussels drenched in a butter sauce of course ;)
Speaking of which – 29 days until I go home for Christmas.
Not that I’m counting down the hours or anything.
Question of the Day: Let’s talk fish tacos. Have you had them? Favourite kind or combination?