Shortly before Meatless March I had purchased a couple whole snappers for a dinner party. I thought at the time that I probably only needed one, but wanted to be safe and ended up with about 2 1/2 times the amount we’d need. So we cleaned and froze the extra fish which has been staring up at me from our large freezer in the basement. Eyeing me each time I reached in for a black bean burger, chik patty or loaf of bread. So I finally thawed the sucker out. Last time we deep fried the fish whole served with a shiitake, red pepper vinaigrette and a “sea” of zucchini and sweet potato flowers.
So this time around I thought I’d fillet the fish and maybe make some fish tacos. But then we were invited to a mexican taco three-way next Saturday including fish and so instead of mexican food, I thought I’d asianify it.
I don’t often have the opportunity to fillet a whole fish, though I did a pretty good job with a tilapia not long ago. So I decided to watch some videos on it for a refresher. The best one I saw had a guy using an electric knife and in about 20 seconds the job was done. Another video was painful to watch and had endless comments about what a tool the chef was. So I decided I’d wing it and came downstairs to do my best figuring that since the meat was going into tacos, a little butchering for practice sake was not terrible. Lucky for all of us, though, Ryan was in the kitchen and, after hearing me say I prepped by watching videos, he shook his head at me and got started. So not so long later, I had a lovely plate of filleted and portioned fish.
I marinated it in sake, a touch of soy and a ton of ginger for about 4 hours, then patted it dry. We dredged it in a mix of flour, ground szechuan peppercorns and five spice, then shallow fried it butter and oil. Meanwhile I had julienned a jalapeno and several of those baby carrot nubs (which was a pain in the butt) and cooked them in a really hot pan with oil until they just got a bit blackened and a bit soft. I also made thin strips of green onions which were soaking in cold water to take a tiny bit of bite off and crisp them up a bit. The sauce would be mayo, sriracha, lime juice and hoisin. Originally I thought of having two sauces: a limey hoisin and the spicey mayo, but I figured why not just mix them together. Pretty tasty.
Finally I had to make some thin chinese pancakes which is basically flour and hot water. It is kneaded until smooth, then you cut it into about a dozen pieces, roll each piece to a 3″ circle, then sandwich it with another circle with sesame oil in between. This sandwich is then rolled out to about 6″ and cooked in a hot, dry pan until brown in spots. The two pieces are then separated, thus making a very thin pancake. I chose to make them a bit thicker, though, to better hold up to the ingredients.
We made the tacos with the fish, green onion, cilantro sprigs, carrot mixture and sauce and served those amazing jumbo asparagus on the side- just grilled with garlic butter. Other than maybe adding cayenne to the fish coating, this meal was pretty amazing. The marinade on the fish added a great, subtle flavor layer and there is rarely anything wrong with embellishing a sandwich style item with a mayo-based sauce. Ryan insisted that he assembled his tacos in a nicer fashion than I did so I took two pictures. I can’t really tell a big difference, but here they are: