Panko-Crusted Fish Tacos with Spicy Chile Mayonnaise and Cabbage Slaw
I was sitting here with a blank screen of a blog post, when I turned to my mom asking her what I should write about. Without averting her eyes from the TV program she was watching—The Big Bang Theory, a program we have both shamelessly fallen for—she immediately said, “Um maybe that it’s the best thing you’ve ever made? And that the sauce is to die for?”
There’s a saying in Mexico that “hunger makes the best sauce,” and I think it is partly this sauce that made my mom almost worship the fish tacos I made for dinner this week. She came home ravenous, and when one comes home in that state, it doesn’t matter whether she has New Year’s resolutions or not to make panko-crusted fish tacos with a spicy ancho chile mayonnaise and a crunchy cabbage slaw wrapped up in a warm flour tortilla sound and taste like the best thing.
But, to give her some credit, we all loved them. I kind of had a vision of how I thought the “perfect” fish taco would be, and this is what I came up with: the flavoring of the fish was kept simple, but I wanted a crunchy texture. I baked the filleted fish in a panko-coating, just because I thought it would be healthier than deep-frying it. (And obviously easier—still haven’t gotten over my fear of deep-frying yet.) I wanted a lot of the flavor to come from the sauce, and with ancho chiles and a whole lot of fat, I think the pink chile mayonnaise from Tyler Florence did the job. Seriously, I want to smother it on everything. And finally, I wanted a crunchy cabbage slaw, dressed with a tart vinaigrette that counter-balanced the fat of the chile mayonnaise. What resulted was something I’d like to think we all found pretty perfect. I think it may in fact deserve the title as The Fish Taco of My Dreams.
Eating these fish tacos made me wonder why I don’t make them more often, let alone order them at restaurants every once in awhile. As much as I love hearty stews and carb-heavy meals during the wintertime, I feel like getting a taste of tropical flavors is something that is really doing me some good. Something about the flavors of the lime, mango, and chile that just does something to a person when there’s freezing temperatures outside.
One Year Ago: Mom’s Bran Muffins
Panko-Crusted Fish Tacos
Do not assemble the tacos until right before they’re going to be eaten; the crunch of the baked fish fades the longer it sits soaking in the chile mayonnaise and cabbage slaw.
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups panko-style bread crumbs
1 pound flaky, mild, white fish, like rockfish, tilapia, or mahi mahi, patted dry and cut into wide approximately 1 1/2 by 3 inches
flour tortillas, warmed
spicy chile mayonnaise (recipe below)
cabbage slaw (recipe below)
limes, to garnish
1 mango, peeled and sliced into strips
1/2 avocado, peeled and sliced into strips
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a sheet with aluminum foil and set aside.
In a wide, shallow bowl or dish, whisk to combine the flour, paprika, and a liberal amount of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. In another wide dish, add the eggs. In a third dish, add the panko. Place them side-by-side, with the flour dish first and the panko dish last, to create a fish breading station. Taking one fish stick at a time, cover in flour, tap off excess; dip into the egg, shake off excess; and then cover in the panko, making sure to use your finger to press the panko bread crumbs onto the fish. Place on the prepared baking sheet and continue the process of breading the rest of the fish. Once all are prepared and placed on the baking sheet, bake in the preheated oven for 12-14 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and the fish is flaky white on the inside.
To assemble the fish tacos, take a warm flour tortilla, add a couple of the panko-crusted fish, top with a few good tablespoons of the pink spicy chile mayo, and add as much cabbage slaw, lime juice, and mango slices to suit your tastes.
Spicy Chile Mayonnaise
Adapted from Tyler Florence
Makes 1 cup
1/2 cup good mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 chipotle chilis in adobo, plus 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
In a blender, combine all ingredients and blend on a high speed until smooth, consistent, and creamy. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use.
After about an hour or two this slaw becomes slouchy and not as crisp as you’d like. I made it before the fish tacos so it could sit to soak up the flavors, but I used it as soon as the tacos were done.
1/2 head Napa or Savoy cabbage
1 jalepeno, seeded and minced
1/2 red onion, sliced paper thin
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Combine the cabbage, jalapeno, red onion and cilantro in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk the lime juice and vinegar together. In a slow, steady stream, add in the olive oil while whisking constantly. Season well with salt and pepper. Add in to the cabbage mixture and toss to combine. Let sit for about a half hour to let the flavors combine.