My first truly great taco experience was a few months ago, while I was on vacation in Austin. The city is probably most well known for its barbeque joints, but also happens to be a huge food truck hub. There’s a food truck for almost anything you can imagine, from cupcakes to bahn mi. It’s somewhat overwhelming, but thankfully a friend who had visited a few weeks prior told me to try the baja shrimp tacos at Torchy’s Tacos. In her words, “you’ll never accept a mediocre taco again. It’s that good”.
In an attempt to recreate this dish, I scoured my entire collection of food magazines to find a similar recipe. Luckily, Food & Wine came to the rescue with their latest issue featuring modern Mexican classics. Their recipe called for skirt steak and a pecan-chipotle sauce, but I was in the mood for something lighter so I swapped the steak for breadcrumb-crusted tilapia and used the marinade as a sauce.
There’s only one thing that is absolutely necessary for a great taco: authentic corn tortillas. They have a ton more flavor and better texture than flour-based ones. Other than that, the rest is pretty much up to you. Make it for a quick weekday dinner or invite your friends over and have them assemble their own. Add some guacamole and a few margaritas and you’ve got a quick and delicious dinner party in less than an hour.
¾ lb. tilapia filets, cut into 2”x4” pieces
¾ cup breadcrumbs or panko
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup flour
½ cup chopped cilantro, plus more to garnish
½ small red onion, chopped
½ medium Serrano chile with seeds
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbs. fresh lime juice, plus slices for serving
1 tbs. Extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
8 warmed corn torillas
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
3 radishes, pickled*
½ jalapeño, pickled*
¼ cup Cotija cheese, crumbled
*To pickle the radishes and jalapeño, cut each into paper thin slices. In a small bowl add 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar and 1 tsp. salt. Mix the radishes and jalapeños into the liquid and let sit for at least 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Line a baking tray with foil and set aside. Place the flour on a plate, along with some salt and pepper. Spread out the breadcrumbs on a separate plate. Set up your breading station so that the flour plate is first, then the egg, and finally the breadcrumbs.
Take one tilapia filet and dip it into the flour, so a thin layer covers the entire surface. Remove any excess. Dip the filet into the egg, flipping it over several times until completely moist. Finally, dip it into the breadcrumbs, making sure all sides are completely covered. Place your filet on the baking sheet and repeat for the remaining filets. Bake for 12-14 minutes until the outside is golden brown and the inside is flaky.
While the fish is cooking, prepare the sauce by combining the cilantro, red onion, Serrano chile, garlic, lime juice, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce and mustard in a food processor. Pulse until minced but not pureed. Season to your liking.
When the fish is done, remove from the oven and warm the tortillas in a skillet over medium heat. When heated through, remove and place on a plate. Add one filet, the sauce, carrots, cheese and some chopped cilantro to garnish.