Old Mandeville on the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain is one of my beloved stopping points along I-12 in southeast Louisiana. Just across the causeway from New Orleans, this quaint village has some of the best little joints and dives in the entire state including this one serving fish tacos featuring fresh grouper from Gulf waters.
Sunday morning brunch at The Beach House is a ceremonious occasion, and Rox and I were there just in time before the local 1 pm crawfish boil crowd. Nothing boiled for us this beautiful day, but the fried grouper fish tacos caught our eye. Grouper is seen more on Florida menus than Louisiana, but when I do run across it, I almost always order it.
One intensely spiced Bloody Mary later, the dish arrived. I have to say I was pleased. I ordered the soft flour fish taco version over the corn variety. I especially liked the crunch of the batter, and the tang of the sauce against the soft, sweet mango salsa. This is a dish that can easily make the transition to my kitchen. With a twist here and a rethinking there, I think we might have a new Cajun recipe classic.
First off, my wife would argue that grilling the fish would be a better, healthier direction, and while she is correct, I resist. Here’s the deal. I get it–grilling is healthier than frying. But, to eliminate an entire genre of cooking because of a relatively small calorie difference assaults my culinary sense of adventure.
Fish choices are endless for this fish taco dish and a Gulf snapper or Mahi Mahi could easily stand in for grouper. Heck, even thin-cut catfish pieces could make a tasty taco. The crunch is important here, but the batter should be fairly thin, not a thick tempura type. A tangy Cajun sauce, a cool-down salsa and a colorful, crunchy slaw are the components against the blank canvas of my choice–a pair of soft flour tacos.
Break out the fryer; it’s time for Fish Tacos.
- 1 cup rice flour
- 2 cups yellow corn meal
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon cayenne
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon lemon pepper
- 2 cups peeled and diced mango
- ¼ cup diced tomato
- ½ cup diced red onion
- ½ cup diced cucumber
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 1 tablespoon diced fresh jalapeno
- 4 tablespoons lime juice, freshly squeezed
- 1 cup thinly shredded cabbage
- 1 cup thinly julienned carrot
- 1 cup thinly sliced white onion
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Creole mustard or coarse-grained mustard
- 2¼ cups mayonnaise, divided
- ¼ cup horseradish
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon hot sauce
- ½ cup ketchup
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 to 3 pounds of fillet Gulf finfish, such as snapper or grouper, cut into bite-sized chunks
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Dash of hot sauce
- 1 gallon peanut oil, for frying
- 8 flour tortillas
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the rice flour, corn meal, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, salt, and lemon pepper. Stir and move to the side.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the diced mango, tomato, red onion, cucumber, cilantro, and jalapeno. Add the lime juice and stir to incorporate. Cover and refrigerate.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the cabbage, carrot, and onion along with the vinegar and mustard. Fold in ¼ cup of the mayonnaise and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the remaining 2 cups of mayonnaise, horseradish, lemon juice, and hot sauce. Begin slowly adding the ketchup while stirring with a whisk. Once the white mayonnaise base begins turning pink with the ketchup, stop. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the mixture into a plastic squeeze bottle.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the fish pieces and pour over the lemon juice and hot sauce coating all the pieces.
- In a large pot, pour in the peanut oil and heat on medium to a temperature of 375ºF.
- Inspect the fish fillets to make sure all pin bones have been removed. Dredge the fish pieces in the fish fry dry mixture and drop into the hot oil. Be careful not to crowd the pan or let the temperature drop. You will probably have to fry in two or three stages depending on the size of your pan. When golden brown, remove to a platter covered in paper towel. Keep the platter warm while you fry the remaining fish.
- For assembly, place two flour tortillas on a plate. Spread each with the slaw mixture and place a serving of the fried fish on each. Spoon on the salsa and add a squeeze of sauce over each.
- Serve this dish with a side of black beans and a big glass of Community sweet tea.
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