New Year’s Crappie Tacos
by Vernon Summerlin
The taco predates the arrival of the Spanish in Mexico. There is anthropological evidence that indigenous people traditionally ate tacos filled with small fish. The term taco has been translated as “light lunch,” however, you can load them up with whatever fulfills your gastric fantasy.
Lime is probably the most essential of authentic Mexican taco toppings. A squeeze of lime adds a dash of acid that brings out the other flavors. Onions, cilantro, pico de gallo, sliced radishes or cucumbers, avocado and chili peppers are standard toppings for authentic tacos. You can find more of the history and a gazillion more recipes (by my count) online. Let’s start at the beginning for building a crappie taco; the sauce and the fillings including fried fish fingers.
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 scallion, white and light green parts only, sliced
- 1 to 2 chipotles in adobo, seeds removed and finely chopped
- 1/2 lime, juiced
Combine the mayonnaise, garlic, scallion, chipotle and lime juice in a small bowl and mix well. Add salt, to taste. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. Keep covered in the refrigerator up to 1 week.
Brown Sugar Onions
- 1 red onion
- 1 lime
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
Peel the red onion and then cut into thin,half-moon shapes. Squeeze lime juice over the onions and set aside while you prepare the fish. Just before you serve the tacos sprinkle the sugar over the onions and give them a quick stir. The sugar might not all dissolve b completely but this is what makes them delicious.
- 1 pound crappie fillets
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon polenta or cornmeal (optional but adds crunch)
- Canola oil
Cut the fish into chunky fingers. Set up a production line with three bowls. Put the flour in the first bowl. Break the eggs into the second and give them a good beating with a fork. Place the Panko breadcrumbs and polenta into the third bowl. Line a tray with parchment paper. Dredge the fish fingers in the flour mixture, shake off any excess. Dip the fillet into the egg and then turn it in the breadcrumbs. Place the breaded fish onto your tray and continue with the remaining fillets. Cover and refrigerate fingers until you are ready to cook. Place some paper towels on a large platter and place a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Add 1 to 2 inches of oil and place in your fish fillets (don’t over crowd the pan, this will take a couple of batches). Cook for 2 minutes on one side and then carefully flip and cook for another 2 minutes or until just cooked through. Place the cooked fish on your platter to drain excess oil. Add more oil to the pan (if needed) to cook the remaining fillets.
- 2 cups white cabbage
- 8-10 flour tortillas
- 1 green chilli (optional)
Shred the cabbage. Gently warm the tortillas in the microwave or a dry frying pan. Then layer your tacos with tartar sauce, brown sugar cooked onions, cabbage and crappie fingers. If you like them spicy, sprinkle finely chopped green chili peppers to suit your taste.