What's For Dinner: Baked Whitefish Tacos

This past weekend, D and I, along with his parents who were in town for a visit, travelled up to Bayfield, Wisconsin, a small town located along the shores of Lake Superior. The goal of our trip was to pick some blueberries (goal achieved!, post to come) and we spent the remainder of the afternoon exploring Bayfield's cute downtown area.

When it came time for dinner, I had a serious craving for whitefish tacos. We found a little hole-in-the-wall place that had several whitefish options on their menu, but alas, the fish tacos were fried (not my favorite preparation). I opted instead for the grilled whitefish sandwich (which was quite delicious), while D ordered, and thoroughly enjoyed, the whitefish tacos.

I decided to recreate our Lake Superior dining experience at home (sans the Pac-Man machine, sadly) and made whitefish tacos for dinner. D requested breaded fish, so I added a breading before baking the fish. (Personally, I think it would be just as tasty (maybe even moreso), without the breading, but I was too lazy to make separate portions for the two of us.

I used frozen whitefish (from Bodin Fisheries, which actually hails from Bayfield), and my quick-thawed fish had a little bit of a fishy odor. I had recently read a tip about soaking fish in milk for 20 minutes to remove the fishy smell, and the trick worked well for me. (You can watch a short video about this technique from America's Test Kitchen here.) Note: if your fish is both smelly and slimy, it has probably seen better days, and your best bet would be to toss the fish and order some takeout instead. :)

The jalapeño-lime-cilantro marinade gives the fish plenty of flavor and pairs perfectly with the coleslaw recipe I featured recently. While the view out my window may not be quite as blue as the one from Bayfield, if I close my eyes as I eat these tacos, I can almost hear the water lapping against the shoreline. I think another trip to Bayfield is in order -- apple season, here we come!

Baked Whitefish Tacos (printer-friendly version)
makes 2 servings

1/2 lb whitefish fillet
1 cup organic milk (whole, low-fat, or skim) [optional]
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 jalapeño, seeds and ribs removed, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I used whole wheat, but panko or white bread crumbs would work just as well)
4-6 white corn tortillas

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray, and set aside.
2. If your fish is fresh (i.e., it smells like the sea and not "fishy"), you can skip this step. If you have thawed your fish from frozen or it has a fishy smell, place the fillet in a shallow dish and cover with milk. Set in the fridge for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, drain the fish and pat dry. (Rinse out the shallow dish so that you can reuse it for the marination step.)
3. Place the fish fillet back into the rinsed shallow dish. Season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, chili powder, jalapeño, and cilantro.
5. Pour the marinade mixture over the fish and place in the fridge to marinate for 20 minutes.
6a. If you prefer to not bread your fish, move it directly onto the prepped baking sheet.
6b. If you do want to bread your fish, place the breadcrumbs on a large plate. Coat each side of the fish fillet evenly with the breadcrumbs, then place the fillet onto the prepped baking sheet.
7. Bake the fish for 10-15 minutes (or until the fish is flaky and the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees).
8. Serve with coleslaw (and your favorite taco toppings, such as crumbled cheese, sliced avocado, or salsa).

(adapted from this food comas recipe)