The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fish per week to stave off cardiovascular disease. I recommend drinking at least two beers per week to stave off screaming obscenities at the grocery store parking lot’s ticket-taking machine when it says you didn’t validate—even though you abso-fucking-lutely did—and it tries to make you pay $60 and the guy over the intercom isn’t responding because he’s 50 feet away, sitting on a curb, eating a roast beef sandwich. (All based on real events that transpired while grocery shopping for fish taco ingredients!)
With that segue in mind, making beer-battered fish kills two birds with one tasty stone. I got out of the parking lot OK too: If you make enough of a scene, it’s in management’s best interest to get you out of there as soon as possible. That advice works in a surprising amount of situations, too.
To get that healthy, deep-fried show on the road, you need to first choose your fish. In Ensenada, Mexico—the fish taco capital of the world—taqueros typically use a small shark called an angelito, which isn’t commercially available for most home cooks. The closest equivalent would be a flaky white fish like halibut or sea bass, but, since you’re going to be deep frying it, wrapping it in a tortilla, and slathering the whole ordeal in crema, don’t stress. I used tilapia, but catfish, swai, and basically anything that swims and has fins will work too.
First, fill a large, heavy-bottomed pot with canola or vegetable oil, crank the heat, and get it to 375 degrees. If you have one, by all means use a deep-fryer. A standard beer batter only needs two ingredients—beer and flour—but you want to change that standard. You want to create a new standard.
For the crispiest, most flavorful beer batter, combine equal parts Mexican beer and flour, season with salt and a few dashes of hot sauce, then add in a shot of hard liquor for every cup of flour you used. The alcohol is going to evaporate faster than the beer, creating crispier air pockets in the batter. (It also supposedly prevents gluten formation in the batter, but I’m still not 100% convinced that gluten is a real thing.)
Slice your fish into tortilla-length batons, season with salt and pepper, dredge in flour, lather it in beer batter, then drop it into a bath of hot oil. At 375 degrees, the fish will only take about three or four minutes to cook, so keep an eye on it. When the batter is all golden brown and crispy-looking, take the fish out, let it drain on a cooling rack, and sprinkle it with some fresh salt. Adding salt at every step of the cooking process is a good habit to get into.
You could just park in front of a couch and shove all those upscale fish sticks in your mouth-hole, but they’re definitely optimized in taco form. Griddle off some corn tortillas, throw down your fish and a handful of shredded cabbage, then top with a mixture of equal parts Mexican crema, mayonnaise, and vinegary hot sauce. Garnish with fresh lime, grab an extra beer, and go to town.
Still hungry? Check out the other installments of Bite Club here.
Photos by All photos by Josh Scherer