Patriots Daily Kitchen Staff
Editors note: We’re going to try to bring you these columns for all home games, plus any postseason action.
The Patriots Daily guys have kept you up to date on this week’s game against the Chargers. We here at the Buffet Table hope to keep you fed.
San Diego, home of a world famous zoo and 70 miles of sandy beaches. Balboa park and spastic sack dances. Microbreweries and fish tacos. Yes, fish tacos, you won’t find those in New England but they are ubiquitous in San Diego. That’s what we’re about here at the Buffet Table, we bring you a bit of the food and beverages from the opponent’s city. So you can spice up your spread at home or on the tailgate and add a little flavor to the game.
So what is this fish taco? It’s battered and fried white fish (think the fish in fish and chips) served on a tortilla with shredded cabbage and crema sauce. We’ll walk through the simple steps of making the dish. Present some alternatives for the tailgaters, and those scared of the idea. Finally we’ll go over some drink pairings.
For those at home:
Beer battered fish, serves 4
3 3/4 cup all purpose flour (divide and reserve 2 cups)
2 tbsp chili powder or chile con carne seasoning
1 tbsp chopped cilantro (you can buy fresh or find tubes of pre-chopped cilantro)
1/2 cup beer
1 1/3 cup water
2 tbsp olive oil
8 fish fillets, 2 ounces each, cod or haddock .. if your grocery store has scrod, that’s just cod or haddock, any firm white fish will work
3 tbsp canola, corn or vegetable oil
1 tbsp butter
First we’ll need a batter, and what is the point of batter if it isn’t beer batter. Combine the dry ingredients (1 3/4 cups flour, chili powder, cilantro) in a large bowl. In a separate bowl lightly beat the egg, then add the rest of the wet ingredients (beer, water, oil). Mix well. Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry while mixing. You will end up with a thick batter, if it seems too wet simply add a teaspoon of flour and mix it in.
Now we’ll prepare our fish. Take 2 shallow pans, in the first pour the 2 cups of reserved flour, and in the second pour your beer batter. Dredge each fillet in the flour and then move it to the batter. It helps to use one hand to handle dredging in the flour and moving the fish to the batter, and your other hand to take the battered fish and place it in the pan. Otherwise your hands will resemble clubs by the time you are done.
If you have a deep fryer great, heat it up according to your directions, and when the fish floats and is a golden brown it’s done. The rest of us will be pan frying the fish. Take a heavy frying pan and add enough canola, corn or vegetable oil to cover the bottom. A few tablespoons should suffice. To this add the tablespoon of butter. Turn your burner to medium and watch the oil, you do not want it to smoke or spatter. As it heats you can drop small amounts of your beer batter into the pan, if they sink to the bottom it isn’t hot enough, if they crackle and rise to the top the pan is ready for the fish.
Take one of the battered fillets and slowly add it to the pan, making sure to do so away from you. If the oil spatters you want it to go away from you, not towards. Once that is in add a second fillet in the same manner. If you have a cast iron or an especially large pan you may be able to cook 3 or 4 fillets at a time, but do not crowd the pan. If there is too much added at once the oil temp will drop too far. Cold oil will be absorbed into your food, leaving you with greasy not crispy fish.
Check the fillets at 4 minutes, you want a golden brown color. Flip the fish, again doing so away from you. Cook for 4 minutes on the other side and remove from the heat. Repeat the process until all of the fish is cooked.
If the whole idea of making tacos with fish has scared you stop right here. Cook up some french fries, and you have some Tex-Mex seasoned fish and chips. If you want to go the authentic route add 2 fillets to a tortilla and top with shredded cabbage and either your favorite salsa or crema sauce. Crema sauce can be found in the Hispanic aisle of any larger grocery store, just heat it in the microwave before adding.
For the tailgaters:
Frying isn’t going to be an option, a pan full of hot oil over the flame of a grill is just a fire waiting to happen. Instead we’ll cook the fish in aluminum pouches. This will also work for those at home who do not like to fry food.
4 fish fillets, 4 oz each, cod, haddock or any firm white fish.
1 bunch cilantro
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp chili powder or chile con carne seasoning
Coat the fish evenly wih the olive oil. Lay out four sheets of aluminum foil about 4 times the size of the fish fillets. On each sheet of foil place one fillet in the center, top it with 1/4 of the cilantro and chili powder. Fold the foil over the fish and crimp the sides well.
Heat your grill to 400 degrees, and evenly place your foil pouches with the spiced side up. Check one of the pouches at 12 minutes. If the fish flakes easily with a fork you are done. If not return to the grill and let them cook for an additional 3 minutes. Be careful when opening the pouches as they will release steam.
Time for a drink!
Now that the food is ready what are we going to drink? Wheat beers are light but flavorful and do not overpower fish making for a good pairing. A hefeweizen would be a good match, and there are many on the market both German and American. We have a better choice however: Belgian Wit.
Belgian Wit is a traditional wheat style. Light and spritzy, with citrus and coriander flavors coming from the curacao orange peel and coriander used to make the beer. Citrus is a natural match for fish, I can’t remember having fish when it didn’t come with lemon on the side. The cilantro used to make our fish melds with the coriander in the beer for a simple reason, the cilantro is the leaves, and the coriander is the dried fruit of the same plant. The spritzy quality of a Belgian Wit comes from the high carbonation level of the beer, and that is going to help as well. Carbonation bubbles scrub oils from the taste buds, so our fried fish won’t taste heavy.
If the Belgian Wit doesn’t sound interesting to you, we can approach the pairing in a different way. We can think of what we’re making as a type of fish and chips, and Pale Ales and ESBs pair well with fish and chips. Their maltiness matches well with the batter used to make the fish.
It’s easy to find a good Wit beer, but we’ll have a hard time finding one from San Diego around here. Victory Whirlwind Wit, the original Hoegaarden White Ale, Allagash White from Maine, Brooklyn Brewery’s Blanche de Brooklyn, Hitachino Nest White ale from Japan and even Blue Moon Belgian White are all good choices.
The most famous brewery from the San Diego area is Stone Brewing Company. You should have no problems finding their beer in any of the larger local liquor stores. If you’d rather have a pale ale than the Belgian Wit, they even have a pale ale available here. That would be the complete San Diego experience eating their food and drinking their beer as the Pats play their team. Hopefully LaDanian won’t start crying that we’re disrespecting them by doing so.
I think I’ll have one of those locally available Wit beers while I eat dinner, and when that’s done switch to the Stone Pale Ale or India Pale Ale. Remember this game is an 8:15 pm start, so I’d stay away from the big Stone beers such as Arrogant Bastard or Ruination IPA if you want to be awake when the game ends.