Story last updated at 9/5/2012 - 1:15 pm
Beer battered halibut: the elusive, quintessential recipe of Alaska. The variations are many, and opinions of how to make it are even more so. Some use rice flour, others use regular flour. Some will use a dark beer, others use cold beer - some go with warm; some fizzy, some flat. Whatever the variation, all will emphatically state theirs is the best.
As for me, I never really attempted it. Yes, I grew up in the frying capital of the world, Georgia. Our motto, "You catch it, we'll fry it" was a sampler stitched on pillows in the front parlors of every southern home. However, we didn't fry halibut. We fried catfish and dough balls called hush puppies. Our batter consisted of cornmeal and a little flour. I don't think my mom ever used a beer in her cooking, let alone her frying. Therefore, this whole beer battered halibut was truly a foreign dish.
Then I moved to Juneau. The dish is on the menu of nearly every restaurant in town. It is most commonly served with fries or "chips" and tartar sauce. I've had it dozens of times and each time my husband begs me to learn to make it at home.
I finally rose to the challenge. But, I didn't want to make something standard such as fish and chips. No, I had to go beyond that and really strut my stuff in the kitchen. I'm from the South; we take pride in our frying. So what could I make differently? I had always wanted to make halibut tacos but I didn't want to make something complicated.
Little did I know that they were actually very easy to make indeed. In fact, with a good deep fryer, halibut tacos can be a fairly quick weeknight meal that can perk up an ordinary day.
After a bit of experimenting with batter, temperature and cooking time, I was finally prepared to allow my family to taste my new recipe. Much to my delight they loved them. The batter was golden and crisp and the fish, warm and tender. I paired the tacos with Alex's homemade tortilla chips and it was a South of the Border Feast.
For some reason, frying halibut was significantly out of my comfort zone, but the kitchen is one place where experimentation is not only encouraged but enthusiastically welcomed.
This week, I present a recipe that is from the desire to please, determination to learn, and creativity to experiment: Beer Batter Halibut Tacos.
Until next time...
Eat and enjoy,
BEER BATTER HALIBUT TACOS
4 - 6 cups vegetable or canola oil
½ lb halibut, cut into large cubes
2 cups tempura batter
1½ warm dark beer
1 package shredded coleslaw mix
1 teaspoon chipotle adobe (more if you like it spicier)
1/8 cup sour cream
1 cup prepared coleslaw dressing
10 white corn tortillas
¼ fresh cilantro, lightly chopped
Salt & pepper
Preheat fryer to 375 degrees, or, in large pot pre-heat oil until 375 degrees. Salt & pepper fish cubes, set aside. In large bowl combine tempura batter and beer. Add ½ tablespoon chili powder and ½ teaspoon salt. Mix until well incorporated.
While oil is heating, combine cabbage, slaw dressing, sour cream and chipotle adobe. Mix well and taste for desired spiciness. Start with a little chipotle adobe and add more until it suit your tastes.
Dip fish in prepared batter and gently place into hot oil. Don't over fill the fryer. Allow to cook thoroughly, approximately 7-10 minutes. Turn occasionally to ensure fish is browned on all sides. Remove to plate with paper towels to drain. Sprinkle sea salt and chili powder for additional flavor.
In small skillet, heat oil to 350 degrees. Place corn tortilla in pan and cook until slightly crispy, about 3 -5 minutes. Turn over to ensure both sides are evenly cooked. The goal is to have it still pliable, yet semi-crispy.
To assemble, place coleslaw on shell, fish on top and garnish with fresh cilantro.