Fish Finger Tacos.
I’m quite a corny person. I love shtick, I like tack, I live for gaudiness and I love using ingredients that are quite often frowned upon or perhaps shunned in a ‘quality ingredients for quality experience’ world. Believe me when I say, this isn’t done as some kind of urban rebellion or anything quite as hipster as that, but more of a case of preference. If I see a tacky ingredient and I can find a use for it, I will. Nothing more, nothing less.
I like a tacky ingredient when I am looking for replacements that adhere to either my laziness or my disdain for overpriced nonsense. Sometimes I will add some Heinz ketchup to a sauce because it gives me immediate consistency. Sometimes I will add instant coffee to a cake as opposed to espresso powder because it’s cheaper. And more as a rule than a replacement, I use OXO cubes for stock and feel no way about it. However, the recipe I present to you here was more of an apparition to recreating a dish at a quicker pace.
Now a fish taco is something I find myself craving more than I care to admit and I have nothing to blame but a Mexican restaurant in Cardiff for that. My friends and I gathered at Wahaca on the Hayes in Cardiff so that we could meet a new boyfriend of one of my friends and we opted that the laid back, casual street food style of Mexico was the best environment for what could potentially be a nerve wracking experience for the poor sod. While the sod in question was a lovely addition to the group, I was also taken with my order of choice which was the fish taco.
What I expected to turn up was fresh fish that had been perfectly undercooked, flaked and seasoned. What turned up was a breadcrumb coated fish. It bamboozled me but was perfect. It had the crispy bite to it that I wanted to feel but the beautiful white flakes of fish flesh (say that 3 times fast) that I would have originally expected from a taco. I needed it at home and I needed it fast. I tried everything I could to match that texture. I coated my own cod with a multitude of breadcrumbs and breadcrumb replacements but nothing hit the mark the way that the taco in the restaurant did.
That was when I caught a glimpse of that absurdly blue box from the depth of my deep freeze with that pale bearded man winking at me as if it say ‘I was here all along, Mikey’. It was fish fingers. That childish fish stick from our childhood that we would stuff between two pieces of plastic bread with an absurd amount of butter and eat with rivers of red ketchup. There he was, staring at me. Emblazoned on the box? “CRISPY BATTER”. It was exactly what I needed. So I commenced to fooling around with a bunch of different approaches, incorporating the fish finger into my taco fantasy before I finally hit the nail on the head with this recipe.
Don’t be turned off by the idea of adding such a vulgar frozen food to your culinary armoury. Once this dish is served up, not only does nobody need to know the source of your fish but also they will be so taken with the warmly spiced fish that they won’t even care where it did originate from if you were to tell them. It’s a triumph.
As grim as this sounds, I am about to literally tell you to cook your fish fingers to packet instruction. The nerve of me. Whether it be 12-18 minutes at 180C or whatever it is, just do whatever the box says and your half way there. You’ll need about 6/8 fish fingers for this recipe but add as many as you feel you will need and increase the spices accordingly.
Once the fingers are cooked, remove them from your roasting tray and add them to a big bowl. Turn the oven off and slip some soft corn tortillas into oven so that they can warm and harden slightly while the oven fan is cooling down and you make up your fish filling.
Go to your bowl of fingers and using a fork, break them up into small pieces. No too much that you flake everything to fishy crumbles, but just detach them all. Now add half a tablespoon of crème fraiche to the bowl. Grate in some lime zest (maybe only half of a lime) before grating in half of a garlic clove. Dust in some cumin followed by some smoked paprika. Or any paprika, whatever paprika you have.
Sprinkle in some sea salt flakes and with your fork, turn the fishy mixture once or twice. Nothing too hard or heavy otherwise your mixture will turn into a fishy paste as opposed to deliciously spiced crumbles of fish. Once the tortillas are ready, remove from the oven and wrap in some tea towels to keep warm. Assemble everything together on a table and allow your friends to dig in.
FURTHER NOTES – I like to serve mine with a slice or two of lime, some pickled chili slices (from a jar) and some chopped coriander. There is also a Homemade Hot Sauce I posted a few recipes back which goes perfectly with these tacos if you really want something fiery.
But essentially these are a really different way to get rid of those icy fingers at the bottom of your freezer as opposed to have a sandwich or served alongside some wretched smilies and beans. This is definitely the kind of utilisation of fish fingers I would use with my children, and this would be their equivalent of a fish finger sandwich.
Having said this, I also do recommend you go and try these at Wahaca in Cardiff. As much as I try to stay away from habit ordering in restaurants – I am a sucker for these and have ordered them many, many times without even looking at a menu.
Dear Thomasina Miers, never take them off the menu.