Fish Tacos

I used to eat a lot of fish tacos when I lived in Oakland. My friends lived up in a much less dangerous neighborhood, so we’d get together to play basketball and then get tacos or burritos at one or another of our favorite spots nearby. When I moved to Chicago a year later, I was delighted at all the Mexican food in my new neighborhood but I never had a fish taco as good as the ones in California.

It had been a long while since I made any, so they seemed like a good choice for another warm evening. The fish was cod, which I cut into cubes and dusted with seasoned flour (smoked paprika, chili powder, salt, pepper) and then browned all over in peanut oil. The beans were pintos, soaked all day and then simmered for an hour, then added to some collards we made the night before that had been cooked with garlic in chicken stock, soy sauce, and cider vinegar. I let that combination cook a while longer so the beans could get fully tender and all the flavors could marry.

I quickly steamed the tortillas, then assembled the meal. The coup de grâce was generous lashings of our homemade smoked salsa. This is the last jar of it and I’m pleased with how deep into this year last summer’s tomatoes have lasted; there are two pints of purée remaining as we enter July and the beginning of fresh tomato season. That means we are closing in on a full year without having bought any sauce or purée. I’ll be making at least as much again in September, and much more of the salsa.

A bit unorthodox, sure, but these tacos had all the complexity of flavor and texture that one could hope for. To accompany these varied flavors, I opened a Viña Tondonia, one of the great rosés of the world. It’s released with about 10 years of age on it–in oak and then in bottle–so it has a slightly sherry-like oxidation to it and can as easily evoke hazelnuts and rhubarb as strawberries and apricots. It’s famously food-friendly and certainly worked well with the tacos. I meant to take a picture of the full bottle, but something happened to the contents while I cooked and ate. It’s a bit more expensive than regular rosé, but worth the splurge if you’re in the mood for something unusual and sexy as hell.

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I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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