Thursday, July 3, 2008

Live Fish Tacos

When I first arrived in California, and in many respects this still feels like a foreign country, I could have sworn I saw a sign that said Live Fish Tacos. The image of a large flapping mackerel in a little taco, being stuffed in someone's mouth has still not left me. Bubsequently (or subsequently) I was disabused of the idea - it was Fresh Fish Tacos, I'm sure. And I tried them. Fresh? Well breaded and deep fried, with cole slaw. What were they thinking? Not exactly bad, but not exactly good either.

Today I realized I have never tried to cook a fish taco. I've been on my own this past week at home, an odd experience in itself, so I decided, why not? There was a catfish calling, and some flour burritos. Now I"m not saying this is any better for you than the deep fried version, let me be clear. Nor any less perverse. But it really worked.

So, season the catfish filet with salt, dill, smoked pimenton de la vera and a little crushed cubeb. Ok, I was out of black pepper, that's the only reason. And I like the resiny flavor of cubebs anyway. This goes in a cast iron skillet with some bacon grease. OK, I had a few slices of bacon this morning with soft boiled eggs. OH MAN, they were good. With ends of an Acme levain bread. See, you get to cook whatever the hell you like on your own.

Then chiffonade some Chinese Bok Choy (a friend brought it over a few days ago, I think it is in the turnip family, more like a chard than flavorless cabbage) , sautee in olive oil, with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and sea salt. Until seriously dark, and crunchy. You want a little bitterness.

Then toast the burritos over the open flame of the burner. Little black spots are ideal. When cool, spread with the tiniest dollop of mayo (so the ingredients stick) and some furikake - seaweed flakes with bonito and sesame seed.

Crumble the fish and bok choy stuff onto the seasoned burritos, then a hint of cruncy Thai peanut sauce. Not smooth. Whole peanuts in a kind of chili sauce. Forbidden City Fusion sauce is the brand. And OH MY!

Roll it all up. Meal unto itself. It is sublime.