Way back in September of 2002, I was a single gal and I went to Austin with my friends Brent and Keely to see the first Austin City Limits Music Festival. It was a fun-filled weekend of adventure, new friends, laughing and oddly enough … Fish Tacos.
On our way to the first day of the festival, our friend Clay told us we could park in front of Z-Tejas on 6th Street and walk to Zilker park for the festival. And, that is very true. You can do that. It’s only around two miles. But, that day, it seemed like ten.
I just remember that about a mile into the hike, many of us were suddenly second-guessing our choices in footwear for the day. We hadn’t expected an urban hike across town. Brent, Keely and I stopped talking at some point and just started sweating and cursing under our breath. Our friend Roy had on boots, as I recall, and somewhere amid the gasping for air, the heat and the blisters – he and I decided that it would be our last hike of the weekend. We were getting a cab that evening for the trip back to our car even if it cost a thousand dollars. Also note, I think Clay beat us all to the festival and never even messed up his hair or broke a sweat.
At the end of the night, after seeing lots of great music – (Ryan Adams, Emmylou Harris, Kelly Willis and Wilco were just a few) – we got that elusive cab and headed back to our car.
The thing about that first ACL Festival was that the food lines that day were so overwhelmed by the unexpected crowds that you had to wait in lines that were hours long – thus, Keely and I survived the day by sharing a granola bar, some tea and a few beers.
I still remember that Keely, Brent, Roy and I feasted on fish tacos at Z-Tejas when we returned to 6th Street. I had never tried a fish taco until then. Seems like Oklahoma was slow to warm to the fish taco. In fact, I’m just now seeing fish tacos on lots of menus around these parts. That’s progress in my book.
I also remember that Keely and I were covered in dirt from head to toe – complemented by a good-ole hot-Texas sunburn. However, the fish tacos brought us back to life. So, these days, fish tacos are a sort of comfort food to me and every time I have them, I think of Austin and hiking and cursing, and laughing, and Ryan Adams, and sweating and flip-flops and dust … and, well, you get the point.
Below is our version of fish tacos. I have to say that I’m pretty much in love with them. They may even be worth a hike across town … I don’t know.
Blackened Tilapia Tacos
½ cup thin sliced onion
Handful of cilantro leaves chopped
2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
¼ cup mayonnaise
½ teaspoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Mexican hot sauce
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Few grinds of black pepper
Directions: Toast the cumin seeds in a dry cast iron skillet until just fragrant – about one minute. Combine the cumin seeds and the remaining slaw ingredients into a large bowl, cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
4 Tilapia Filets
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons ground chipotle chile
1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ cup all-purpose flour
Split tilapia filets in half lengthwise. Combine remaining ingredient in a gallon freezer bag. Shake to combine. Add the tilapia filets and shake until well coated. Preheat a well-greased cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the filets a few at a time until a crust forms and the fish flakes easily with a fork.
To assemble the tacos:
16 Corn tortillas — heated
Thinly sliced radishes
Mayonesa (Mexican Mayonnaise with lime – if you can’t find this product, then squeeze ½ of a lime into ½ cup of real mayonnaise)
Use two corn tortillas for each taco – spread the taco with 1 teaspoon of lime Mayonesa, add a fish filet, slaw, thinly sliced radishes, a squeeze of lime juice and drizzle with your favorite Mexican hot sauce.