Fish Tacos with Sweet and Spicy Carrot Slaw

Here it is, as promised!

This one’s really easy, yet the results are pleasingly complex in flavor.

For the tacos
~1 lb. fish fillet of your choice – we used red drum
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 lemon, sliced thinly, plus juice
1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp dried dill
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 corn tortillas
1 tsp bacon fat
extra lemon wedges, for garnish

For the slaw
1 carrot, peeled and grated
3 small sweet peppers (like small bell peppers, Cubanelles, and/or Dulcetta, which I used here)
1 Tbsp hot sauce (I used this, which was sweet and spicy itself and added to the complexity)
pinch of brown sugar
2 Tbsp cream

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Place a large piece of aluminum foil a shallow baking tin, and gently lay the fish fillet atop it. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, turning fish twice to make sure it is evenly covered in both. Sprinkle red pepper flakes, dill, salt, and pepper on fish. Place lemon slices under and on top of the fillet. Wrap foil around the fish to make a tent, leaving the ends open a bit. Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of the fish. When done, its flesh should no longer be pink, but rather solid white and flaky. For about a pound, which I cooked here, it took 20 minutes to achieve the perfect doneness and texture.

2. While the fish is baking, fry your tortillas in melted bacon fat over medium high heat in a large skillet. Flip them with a spatula so that both sides are evenly cooked. If using a large skillet, you should be able to do at least two at a time. Don’t allow them to become crispy, just softened and lightly browned. As each tortilla is done, set it aside on a plate between paper towels to drain the grease and retain heat.

3. After the tortillas are all cooked, drain any excess grease from the pan, leaving just a little, gleaming layer for flavoring the slaw. Add the carrots and peppers and toss over medium high heat for just a couple of minutes, until their colors intensify. Reduce heat to low and add hot sauce and brown sugar; still thoroughly. Finally, add the cream and stir again. The slaw should now have a nice, thickened consistency, and smell sweet, spicy, and fragrant. Remove pan from heat. For me, all of these elements were done at the same time, so it was easy to prepare the tacos while the separate ingredients were still warm; this is what you should be shooting for with this dish.

4. Once the fish is done, remove it from the oven. Unwrap the foil and, using your fingers or a fork, shred the flesh into bite-sized pieces.

5. Place the tortillas on your serving plates. Scoop up the pieces of warm fish, carefully avoiding any lemon slices, and place them on the tacos. Top with freshly mixed slaw and serve immediately with lemon wedges for garnish.

Serves 2.


Pecan-Stuffed Delicata Squash

It’s decorative-gourd-eating season!

So, I had these two Delicata squash.  I had a bag full of pecans.   I had a handful of freshly-picked sage from our garden.  And I had a little sour cream that was about to go off (do we say that in America, or is that a Britishism I’m still saying, to everyone’s bemusement?).

Lucky for you, I created this recipe, which I’m earmarking for re-use at Thanksgiving.  It would make an excellent main for vegetarian guests, and could be easily veganized by substitution tofu-based faux sour cream for the real thing and skipping the egg.  I might add some breadcrumbs if I was making it vegan, too.

This dish is rich enough for an entrée, but would also make a delightful surprise served alongside a plainer chicken or turkey main.  It’s hard to beat the combination of parmesan, sage, and nuts!

So autumnal, y’all.  It was 63 degrees this morning (when I had to go for a walk instead of a swim!), so this recipe was perfect for dinner.  I hope you like it as much as we did.

2 Delicata squash
2 Tbsp butter
2 small yellow onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
~1 Tbsp fresh sage, roughly chopped
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 black pepper
1/3 cup sour cream
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Cook for about five minutes, until translucent and fragrant. Add sage, salt, and pepper. Stir, and cook for about one minute. Add pecans, stir again, and remove from heat.

2. Slice each squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Delicata squash are some of the easiest to work with, and the pulpy center is perfectly sized for a tablespoon! Place each of the four halves, skin-down, on a cookie sheet or shallow roasting tin lined with foil. Set aside.

3. In a medium-sized bowl, mix beaten eggs, sour cream, pecan mixture, and Parmesan, reserving a little of the cheese for garnish. Spoon into each of the squash halves, so that each has about the same amount of stuffing. Sprinkle with a tad more Parmesan.

4. Bake for 45 minutes (or until squash is soft and easily pierced with a fork). The cheese should be slightly browned when done.

Serve immediately, either as a main or a side dish (one squash half per person should be enough as a side).

Serves 2-4.

Gluten Free Tex-Mex Fried Chicken

We’ve been eating this once a week, so I had to share!

I’ve been developing the perfect gluten free batter recipe for a few weeks; last Sunday, while we were at Sagra for their amazing weekend brunch, our waiter surprised us with a gift of mixed pepper flakes!  They’re serious about locally grown, organic ingredients.  They even have their own greenhouse in South Austin.

And they accept vegetables from their customers!  Eric often takes batches of homegrown produce to Sagra (squash, chiles, pumpkins). Our chiles have made their way into infused olive oils, for instance.  Sometimes we get to sample the latest cocktails dreamed up by the amazing bartender.  This week, we got these amazing pepper flakes.  I can’t remember the whole litany, but I know it included jalapeño, habanero, poblano, anaheim, serrano, and hatch chiles.

I decided to incorporate them into my fried chicken batter, and they took the result from good to fantastic!

We’ve been buying chicken tenders from Wheatsville lately, so that’s what I fried.  Note that frying whole pieces will take longer, depending on the part, and bone-in chicken will take considerably longer.  In fact, that would be a whole different recipe, involving a lot more frying fat and a lot more splatter.  But this recipe is perfect for smaller pieces of meat.  It would also be excellent for veggies, such as zucchini (which I served roasted, as a side dish).

Another secret is the bacon fat.  I keep two Mason jars in the fridge at all times.  Every time I fry some bacon (so, practically daily), I drain it through a paper towel and into the jar.  I then use it for all manner of things, such as extra decadent scrambled eggs, perfectly fried corn tortillas, or Yorkshire puddings.

If you have a problem with deep frying things in bacon fat, you’re on the wrong blog!

~2 lb. chicken, cut of your choice (I used boneless breast tenders here)
2 eggs
1 cup gluten free all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp red pepper flakes (mixed varieties, if available)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
~6 Tbsp strained bacon fat

1. Using two shallow dishes (I have stainless steel dredging pans just for this purpose), crack eggs (white and yolks) into one and lightly beat until well mixed; thoroughly mix dry ingredients in the other to create your batter. Set them up in order, depending on whether you’re moving the chicken left or right, with a large plate at the end for your dipped and battered meat.

2. Dredge each piece of chicken as follows: dip the meat into the egg mixture, turning it over so that the whole piece is coated in a thin layer of gooey egg. Immediately drop it into the batter mix and thoroughly coat it, turning over a few times. Gently place the battered chicken on the plate to the side. Continue until all pieces are battered. Allow them to sit for at least ten minutes to give the batter a chance to set. This will help prevent batter from sloughing off in the pan.

3. Meanwhile, in a large, preferably cast iron, skillet, heat half the bacon fat over medium high heat until melted and popping. The fat should be at least a half inch deep, preferably an inch. You may need to adjust the size of skillet you use or amount of fat in order to get just the right amount.

4. Next, gingerly lay pieces of chicken into the grease until the pan is full, with room to maneuver each piece with a scratch-proof spatula. You may have to do two, or even three, rounds of frying. The chicken will immediately begin to pop and spit; if this presents a problem, use a splatter screen when not turning the meat.

5. Allow the chicken to cook for about five minutes on each side, turning them over carefully with your spatula, until the batter is nicely browned and crisp. Gently scoop each piece up and place it on paper towels aside on a plate to cool and drain the excess grease. Repeat until all the chicken is fried.

If you’re unsure whether the chicken is fully cooked, just cut one of the tenders open with a knife and see. The meat should be white throughout and tender, but not rubbery. If it is rubbery, you’ve cooked it too long. Adjust your times accordingly for the rest of the batch. Fully cooked chicken should be 165° in the center. Use a cooking thermometer to test if you are unsure. After you do this a few times, you will become an expert on the cooking times for different meats based on the combination of your particular oven or stove and chosen cooking method.

After the meat has drained for a few minutes, you can wrap it up in clean cloth to serve a bit later with sides, or serve it immediately while it’s piping hot.

I like this Tex-Mex fried chicken with hot sauce (we keep a bottle of Cholula on hand at all times), but Eric also likes to dip his tenders in Ranch dressing, which is also delicious with the side dish I like to make: roasted zucchini wedges drizzled with olive oil, salt, pepper, and dill. Go crazy!

Serves 2-4.

Green Monster Tacos

I told you the lime and cilantro trend would continue, and here’s another easy and scrumptious recipe—this time with chicken!

2 chicken breasts
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper

six corn tortillas
2 Tbsp bacon grease, halved
1/3 yellow onion, finely diced
1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
salsa verde of your choice, to taste (y’all know which one I use!)
handful cilantro, chopped
juice of 1 lime

1. Preheat oven to 350°.  Place chicken in a roasting tin or oven-safe pan, and rub both sides with olive oil.  Sprinkle cumin, garlic powder, salt, and pepper over it.  Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until cooked throughout (the internal temperature should be 160°, with no pinkness).

2. For tacos: In a large skillet, melt 1 Tbsp of bacon grease over medium heat.  Fry each tortilla briefly, 1-2 minutes, until it begins to soften and then brown.  Set each tortilla aside on paper towels, while still soft and malleable, to drain.  Repeat with each tortilla.  If using a large skillet, you should be able to fry two at once.  After doing the first few, your bacon grease will probably be burned and dark.  Pour it out, wipe out the skillet, and start afresh with the other half of the grease.

For tostadas: Melt half the bacon grease over medium heat.  Fry each tortilla just until crisp and lightly browned, then set aside on paper towels to drain.  If using a large skillet, you should be able to fry two at once.  After doing the first few, your bacon grease will probably be burned and dark.  Pour it out, wipe out the skillet, and start afresh with the other half of the grease.

3. Once your chicken is done, it’s time to assemble the tacos!  Remove the chicken from the oven and allow to cool for about ten minutes.  Then shred the chicken with your hands.  It’s pretty easy to pull the meat apart into nice, bite-sized pieces.

4. Place the tortillas on serving plates and top with shredded chicken, chopped onion, grated cheese, salsa, and cilantro.  Top with some salsa verde and serve immediately.

Other recommended optional garnishes includes sour cream and raw jalapeño slices!


Quick and Cheesy Corn Chowder

Here’s another easy, cheap, weeknight meal that’s great for both summer and winter.  It’s fairly light, and makes a nice main course for summer, but it’s also nice and warm and would be great served as a first course before a meaty main in winter.

I used a bag of frozen corn that had been hanging out in the freezer for a while, but you could of course use fresh corn if you aren’t as concerned about the “quick” part, and the result would be even better.

Finally, I actually garnished this with smoked Gouda from Wheatsville.  This cheese complemented the other flavors perfectly, and gave the first few bites of chowder a nice little bit of unexpected bite.  I should also reveal that the teaspoon of sour cream you see above was for display purposes only; I actually used about three times as much.  I love sour cream.  I can eat it straight out of the container.

2 Tbsp olive oil
4 Tbsp butter
1/2 large yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
16 oz. chicken stock
16 oz. frozen corn
1/2 head fresh cauliflower (or half a bag frozen)
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup powdered Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup cream
sour cream, to garnish

1. In a large stock pot, melt butter into olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and stir. Sauté for about five or so minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent. Add salt, cumin, and chili powder, stir, and continue to cook for another couple of minutes.

2. Add chicken stock, increase heat to medium high, and bring to a boil. Add corn and cauliflower. Reduce heat to medium low. Cover and allow to cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. If necessary, adjust heat to make sure the soup doesn’t return to a boil, but so that the pot is warm enough that it continues to slowly cook.

3. Pour soup into a blender or large food processor and purée. I like to leave about one cup of chunky corn kernels aside, to add texture to the final dish. Use more as less, as you prefer. You may need to purée the corn mixture in two separate batches. After mixing, return of it to the pot and stir together with chunky bits.

4. Over low heat, add cheeses and stir constantly until they’re completely mixed in (about two minutes). Then add cream and stir until it, too, disappears into the soup.

5. Serve immediately garnished with sour cream, more grated cheese, a sprinkling of chili powder, a sprig of cilantro, or anything else that sounds good! I also like to serve it with homemade tortilla chips!  Mmm.

Serves 4.

Refrigerates nicely, too.