For a short time, the Shop Tart wrote a monthly cooking column for the Free Times. It was really, really fun, mostly because when it came time to write the article, she would recreate the recipe, just to get the details absolutely right. While conducting her experiment in her own little test kitchen, she would consume the larger part of a bottle of something bubbly, just to get the mood absolutely right. What follows was one of her favorite columns, originally printed in the Free Times. (And she has no idea when, because some of the articles are no longer in their web archives. It was probably some time in the summer of 2008.) The recipe is for fish tacos, a favorite dish chez Shop Tart. She made it here at the beach two nights ago, quadrupling the recipe for the crowd. Here you go…
Fish Tacos in Paradise
(First published in the Free Times August, 2008. Probably.)
“When we win the lottery,” I snarled, “I don’t want a beach house here. I want one on Sullivan’s.”
What ensued was probably the most pointless argument in our marriage to date. We don’t even buy lottery tickets, so where our imaginary beach house stands is the most moot point ever. The argument was less about a beach house and more about the fact that we were starving after another failed meal at a well regarded, but consistently awful restaurant on Pawleys Island. I’m not in the business of reviewing restaurants so I’ll delicately hint at the name. It starts with an “L” and rhymes with Schmoois’s Fish Camp. Since I’m not reviewing it, I won’t tell you about the hateful server who was also inhumanly slow, the tasteless chicken fingers even our toddler wouldn’t eat and the failure of our server to tell us they were out of the main ingredient of the meal we ordered – the meal they served us anyway. On the upside, it only took our charming (and by “charming,” I mean “not at all charming”) waiter twenty minutes or so to return to the table to see our uneaten food. Our children were finished and dangerously close to doing something that would embarrass us, so we declined the sullen offer to order another meal. Somehow, three tasteless children’s meals and an iced tea cost $32. But I’m not reviewing the place or anything. Just warning you to never, ever go there. [Ed. Note: The place closed shortly after this article was published, but the closing had nothing to do with the article. In fact, the bad experience was probably related to the fact they knew they were closing soon.]
Our mood might have been improved by copious amounts of alcohol. Perhaps that’s why so many restaurants at the beach get rave reviews they don’t deserve. Drinking heavily masks the taste of any meal and makes the surliest of servers seem charming. Getting wasted at lunch with three children in tow, however, is crossing a line even we aren’t willing to cross – the line between being a responsible and loving parent with a few faults, tastefully hidden from minors, and having everyone within a hundred feet with a cell phone call Child Protective Services to come get “those darling children with the drunks at the next table. Please hurry!”
Next time you’re on vacation, eat in. Just say no to drunk driving, bitter servers and overpriced dreck. I wish we’d stayed at the house and had fish tacos instead. Allow me to save you.
Start with the fish. Any white fish will do. You should be able to find it fresh at the beach or in Columbia at Palmetto Seafood Co. Or, just for fun, go fishing! Catfish is a favorite in our house. As soon as you realize you want fish tacos, put a couple pounds of fish in a big Ziploc bag with a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Seal the bag and smoosh it around until the fish is covered in oil. Make your own seasoning or do what I do, head to Rosewood Market and pick up a packet of Simply Organic Fish Taco Seasoning. Mix the seasoning with a splash of warm water and add it to the bag. Put the bag in the fridge and forget about it.
Now make the salsa. This is actually my sister-in-law’s recipe, but I don’t think she’ll mind if I share. Dump a can of drained black beans into a bowl. Feel free to use non-canned, you go-getter. Add the following:
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped. Orange is fine, but red is prettier. Yellow is unacceptable, because there is more yellow to come. Green is vile.
- 1 green onion, very thinly sliced.
- 1 clove garlic, minced.
- 1 cup chopped pineapple.
- 1 cup frozen corn. It’ll thaw quickly and helps keep the salsa cold.
- A small tomato, chopped. If you’re out of tomatoes – practically impossible this time of year – add a heaping spoonful of prepared salsa.
- If there are no children involved, add a finely chopped habañero.
- Add a ton of fresh cilantro.
Dissolve a teaspoon of sugar into a tablespoon or two of balsamic vinegar. Drizzle over the salsa. Add a few drops of lemon or lime juice and drizzle the salsa with olive oil. Stir!
Add cayenne pepper and salt to taste. Final stir!
Go about your day. Have a good time doing whatever it is you do. At the end of your busy, busy day, waltz into the kitchen and pour yourself a drink, perhaps your second. Pull out a nice big frying pan and heat it. Dump the fish in and throw away the bag. Mom, this is for you: Throw away the damn bag. I know they’re expensive and can be washed and reused, but this one had raw fish in it, m’kay? Cook the fish until it flakes apart.
Stuff your taco shell with fish and mixed greens and top it with the salsa and a dollop of sour cream or chipotle mayo from Rosewood Market. If you don’t eat all the chipotle mayo with the tacos, never fear. It makes a great dip for boiled shrimp or potato chips. It’s awesome with crab cakes, too. In fact, go ahead and pick up two; save yourself a trip. The tacos are best served with cold beer, Prosecco or margaritas. After dinner, write me a quick thank you note for saving you from a miserable dinner out in Tourist Land. You’re welcome!
The other night, the Shop Tart took a few photos as she made dinner. Early in the afternoon, she marinated the fish and prepared the salsa.
She also chopped up several jalapeños for anyone who wanted them.
She was rather tickled to have found corn tortillas at the Piggly Wiggly. Thanks to MoMo’s taco night, she is now obsessed with corn rather than wheat tortillas. One of her housemates for the week (Hi, Laurel!) had purchased a festive hat at the dollar store and suggested the Shop Tart stage this photo of the tortillas. Love!
She was also tickled to see one of her summer favorites, Barefoot Bubbly Brut, right there chilling in the fridge.
And what to her wondering eyes should appear, chipotle mayo like Rosewood’s, my dear! The dear who brought the mayo was none other than Tracie, who had made it herself.
Heating oil in a pan and removing the fish from the refrigerator, the Shop Tart realized she had not had a drink yet, even though she was on vacation. Instead of the Barefoot Bubbly, her eyes were drawn to Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc, with its convenient screw-off cap.
She added a few blueberries like fellow housemate Debi Schadel suggested. Fun!
Enfin, it was time to fry up some fish. The Shop Tart had obtained three pounds of cod from Simmons Seafood and another three pounds of catfish from the Piggly Wiggly. She poured the bag of marinated fish into the hot pan. The fillets were whole and crumbled as they cooked.
She added shredded mozzarella and mixed greens to the taco bar, poured herself another glass of wine and called everyone to dinner. Olé!
Happy Shopping and don’t forget to tell them you read it on the Shop Tart!
P.S. In town this week? This is when the sale ball really starts rolling, so head to your fave boutiques and see what you can score! Also, don’t miss all the fab, budget-friendly options at Kicks right now!