If you dropped by in the past few days, you probably noticed that this little blog just celebrated a birthday. I’m sure you also noticed that I already dedicated two whole posts to the milestone and likely feel it’s time I moved on. Well, you’re right, but you may have discerned from this blog that I am a nostalgia junky. I have two history degrees, for godsakes – living in the past does not even begin to cover it. I can’t seem to stop taking stock of the year that was. But would you forgive this wave of nostalgia if I told you that these Cod Tempura Tacos with Pickled Rhubarb were inspired by it. I think so – tacos are something we can all get behind.
Have you ever noticed that when you hear a brand name for the first time, it hits the ear all wrong? Remember the first time you heard Uber? It was low-hanging fruit in the comedy world for a good year after it came into existence. Now, I never really thought about this brand-new-brand-name phenomena until it came time to name this blog. I arrived at Rhubarb & Cod because I thought it was a cute way to reference my childhood and the beginning of what would become a lifelong obsession with food. So, I was pleased with my sweet blog name and was more than a little excited to formally introduce it to my inner circle. Let’s just say that excitement dissipated quickly.
More than a few of my most trusted advisors and friends wrinkled their noses at Rhubarb & Cod. It’s not that they weren’t supportive, they were, I just think it was hitting their ear wrong. The name had been running laps in my head for weeks before I reveal it to others. I was acquainted with the name; I had even started working on the logo. In the end, I went with my gut. I knew Rhubarb & Cod was right (feel free to disagree) and I figured that, in time, my friends would struggle to imagine the blog being called anything else. So, I could escape the criticism, but not the attempts at humor. The common joke was to comment on what strange plate-fellows rhubarb and cod would make. Sure, I laughed politely on the outside, but I internalized it as a challenge. And today, I’m ready to throw down.
Behold! Cod and rhubarb coexisting, comingling, cooperating. It’s kind of beautiful, isn’t it? To tell you the truth, as far as challenges go, getting rhubarb and cod together wasn’t that difficult. I was inundated with ideas. I’m still toying with the idea of a rhubarb chutney, so who knows, this could become a regular thing. But these Cod Tempura Tacos with Pickled Rhubarb won out because tempura, pickles, and tacos are hard to argue with.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: these tacos are, um, “creative” but how do they taste? I understand the reaction. We’ve all felt the burn of ordering a quirky but ultimately disappointing flavor pairing off an overpriced menu. But I can assure you, these Cod Tempura Tacos are fan-freakin-tastic! Seriously, I was shocked! I didn’t imagine they would be bad because why would I make anything like that, but I didn’t expect to stumble upon a new favorite meal. I just thought it would be fun to show everyone that pairing rhubarb with cod is not completely insane. So, file these tacos under the Better Than I Ever Would’ve Imagined category.
Okay, enough about the why, let’s talk tacos. So, as the name suggests, these Cod Tempura Tacos are chock full of crispy, light (texture wise – don’t fool yourself), and tender cod tempura. I used vodka and sparkling water in my tempura batter and I think you should too. The vodka trick is something I picked up years ago from what I think was a back issue of Bon Appetit (don’t quote me on that) and it made too much sense not to try it. Vodka evaporates faster than water but provides moisture when you need it. The article was referencing pie pastry, so the idea was the vodka would bring the dough together, then quickly evaporate once in the oven. The result would be a flakier, lighter (again, texture wise) crust. Well, I thought, if it’s good enough for pie crust, it’s good enough for tempura. And it was.
The pickled rhubarb got the same treatment I give to all my quick pickles. A little vinegar, a sprinkle of spice (coriander seed and cumin seed in this instance), salt and sugar. I did double the sugar because rhubarb is pretty tart on its own and everything turned out swell. The poblano crema was supposed to be a salsa verde, but tomatillos are allusive in my neck of the woods, so I improvised with some sour cream and put a forgotten poblano to good use. In the end, the rhubarb and crema joined forces to create a vaguely Mexican, entirely weird tartar sauce. I considered this to be a complete success.
So, there you have it, the result of a self-imposed challenge born out of spite. Who knew it could be so delicious? Next post I promise you will have more forward-thinking, less retrospective Susan, but until then, fry up some Cod Tempura Tacos!
- 2-3 stalks fresh rhubarb, diced
- 3 serrano peppers, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon coriander seed
- 1 teaspoon cumin seed
- 3/4 cup white vinegar
- 2 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 poblano pepper
- 1 cup sour cream
- 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 large cod fillet, cut into chunks
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1 1/2 cups cake flour
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1 egg
- 1 cup sparkling water (I used Perrier)
- 1 cup vodka (I used Proof)
- 1(946 ml) bottle canola oil for frying.
- 1 package corn tortillas
- 1 avocado, diced
- Additional cilantro for sprinkling
- Place rhubarb, serrano peppers, coriander seeds and cumin seeds in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Toss to evenly disperse.
- Pour the vinegar over top of the rhubarb mixture, then sprinkle in the salt and sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- Blister the poblano pepper over an open flame or broil until black, turning once.
- Remove the stem and seeds, and place the poblano in a food processor.
- Add the sour cream, garlic, and cilantro, and blitz until smooth.
- With the food processor running, stream in the lime juice and sprinkle in the salt.
- Transfer crema to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Sprinkle salt on both sides of the cod fillet chunks. Drizzle with lime juice and set aside.
- Sift the cake flour and cornstarch together into a large mixing bowl. Stir to combine and form a well.
- Crack the egg into the center of the well, then add the sparkling water and vodka. Stir until a batter forms.
- Heat canola oil in a large dutch oven over high heat. Insert a candy thermometer and heat the oil to roughly 375 F. Try to keep the oil around this temperature as you fry.
- Working in batches, dip the cod pieces in the tempura batter and transfer to the oil. Fry for 3-5 minutes or until golden.
- Transfer the finished tempura to a plate lined with paper towel.
- Place 2 cod tempura pieces on a corn tortilla and top with pickled rhubarb, diced avocado, cilantro sprigs and a drizzle of poblano crema.
- Repeat until out of tortillas or until full. 😉