For a few years my husband nudged, suggested and encouraged me to try the Blackened Tilapia Tacos at Rubio’s. I resisted and stuck with the steak tacos I’d always ordered. I was sure that I knew what I liked and no amount of cajoling was going to get me to change that.
Sunday became Rubio’s day, my daughter schedules her music lessons that day, my husband and son go airsofting, the guy way to bond, and I get the house to myself. I used to cook the family meal while they were gone. Eventually I commandeered those few hours as my own, embracing the lazy afternoon by reading magazines and watching tv that no one was interested in. Don’t get me wrong, an afternoon spent cooking is not a hardship, in fact, it’s almost always my favorite way to spend a day… but there’s something to be said of an afternoon free of expectations except your own.
I digress, back to tacos. One Sunday for some unfathomable reason, I decided that I should follow my husband’s advice and ordered the Blackened Tilapia Taco. I have never ordered my fallback steak taco again, from other places, yes, but not from Rubios. These spicy fish tacos became the things that called to me. They were my new food ‘drug’.
If you’re trolling blogs and websites looking for recipes, I imagine you’re a lot like me. I fall in love with a food from a restaurant (or a friend’s house) and become obsessed with recreating it, sometimes improving it, sometimes leaving it be, but always getting it just right.
I had already made a batch or two of blackening rub for other meals, it’s been put to good use on chicken and steak. I’d found a creamy taco sauce when my daughter complained her mom-made chicken tacos were blah without it. Now I just needed to get over my fear of the flat of tilapia I got from Costco (after a failed attempt with tilapia a few years ago, I got a little skittish) and conquer those tacos!
The blackening rub is probably the key, a little too much of a taste you don’t like will turn you off, not enough will make it dull. This is the blend I use and love, you will want to alter it to suit your tastes once you’ve given it a try. I always make a double batch because we have taken to using it for a lot more meats and fish…
1 ½ tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Add all ingredients to a bowl, mix well until all ingredients are evenly distributed. Pour into an airtight container for storage.
Creamy Chipotle Taco Sauce
(this is adapted from the recipe found on ohsodelicioso blog (Creamy Taco Sauce). I had to make changes to accommodate my husband’s no dairy diet)
½ cup vegan mayo
½ cup vegan sour cream
crushed garlic to taste (I use 1 decent sized clove)
juice of 1 lime
2-3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon adobo sauce (I always have canned chipotle peppers on hand, use the adobo for SO many things)
Add to bowl, stir all ingredients until smooth.
10-12 Corn Tortillas
2 lbs Tilapia fillets
Blackening Rub (to taste)
Olive oil for frying (½ tablespoon at per pan of fish)
Shredded Cabbage (I actually ‘cheat’ here and buy a bag of pre-shredded coleslaw mix. One less step at dinner time can be crucial)
Sliced avocados *optional and yummy
Sprinkle a plate with blackening rub, lay a fillet on top, sprinkle with rub on top and rub into both sides of fish. We’re quite liberal with the rub for our tacos, coating the fish on both sides for lots of flavor. Set coated fillet on a separate clean plate.
Over a medium to high heat, add oil to frying pan and add fillets no more than 2 at a time. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes on each side- check to make sure your fish is no longer translucent in the middle before taking it out to set aside. If your fish is a little thicker, more time will be needed to cook through.
While the fish is cooking warm the tortillas. I do mine in a pan over medium to low heat, with a little cooking spray on each side of the tortilla to soften it up. If you have a favorite way to get your tortillas your perfect way, now’s the time to do it.
Once everything is cooked, let the crack taco building begin…
Lay out your tortilla, add half a fillet (there’s a natural ‘crack’ in the fish that makes this easy), some avocado (if you love them like I do), squeeze some lime over it, top with shredded cabbage and a dollop (or 2, maybe 3?) of that yummy taco sauce, fold over and let the bliss take over.