Part of the reason why we are such happy empty nesters is when we sold our house and moved to an apartment above our store, we also bought a little place on a little lake in Maine, seven hours and 5000 light years away from NJ. There the air is always fresh, albeit slightly redolent of pine needles, and when the sun shines the sky is always a brilliant blue.
Mostly we like to be outside. Hiking, sailing, kayaking, paddle boarding, swimming, or just sitting on the dock reading a book. But when the weather is not cooperating then we do another favorite thing which is messing about with the house. It’s a former camp, which to the uninitiated means a no-frills hut for hunters and fishermen, but fortunately, over the years, it has acquired what I consider to be the essential amenities of a home: indoor plumbing, electricity, heat and hot water.
However, our most favorite thing of all, and perhaps the one thing you can do in Maine at any time of the year–in any kind of weather–and that is eat, dine, nosh, you name it, we do it! In fact we time our journeys so that after a quick six am-ish pitstop for a bagel and a cup of joe to go from The Coffee Corral in Red Bank, we are in Maine just in time for lunch at Day’s Crabmeat and Lobster Pound and Take Out, a type of restaurant we don’t have in our neck of New Jersey any more.
It’s the kind of place where you order at the window, then wait for your number to be called, and in just ten minutes or so you have the freshest fried haddock sandwich or crab or lobster roll you’ve ever eaten in your life. Seating is out back at picnic tables, each with its own million dollar view. Trust me, you will never wait in line at Red’s Eats again.
After Day’s it is just a hop, skip and a jump to our Maine cottage. But first we stop at the Fisherman’s Catch and Seafood Market in Damariscotta and pick up some crabmeat and fresh fish fillets. (The lobster comes later in the week!)
(I swear this guy in line ahead of me was Al Pacino but I was too afraid to ask!)
In the summer, especially when the weather is delightful, time becomes of the essence so we rush to get the boats in the water and have a quick sail, or kayak or fiddle with the latest toy, the paddle board, because before you know it–it’s dinner time. And that often means fish tacos.
I’ve been a fan of fish tacos ever since our friend, Doug Douty, of Lusty Lobster in Highlands, NJ fame discovered them on a fishing trip to Mexico. He came back raving about how great these tacos were and even better, really easy to make: just flour tortillas, the freshest of fish and a crunch of slaw tossed down with a cold one. He had me by the time he got to the slaw–never even mind the beer.
Since then I’ve made them fried, and broiled and baked in the oven, breaded, blackened, sauced and unsauced and finally I decided my favorite way to make fish tacos is the easiest.
First, to make cleanup a breeze, use one of those disposable aluminum pans you can buy at the grocery store. Melt a little butter and lightly coat whatever boneless fish fillet you like–trust me you can use anything–even bluefish, and put it in the pan. Spice the fillets up with whatever is on hand: some chili powder, paprika, some crushed red pepper, a little salt or Old Bay and let it hang in the fridge for a while.
Then make the slaw—once again I’ve made a hundred different versions and find the simplest tastes just as good as more complicated recipes with a ton of steps and ingredients. Just grate or finely slice up some red cabbage. It has to be red cabbage; green does not work. Add some sliced, chopped or grated red onion, and if you like, a carrot and/or some chopped up hot peppers can go into the mix too. Then toss with a slurry you’ve made of about 1/3 rice wine vinegar to 2/3 mayonnaise and a pinch of sugar. Put in the fridge and get yourself a glass of wine or a beer.
All that’s left to do is cook the fish and that just means you get someone else to put the pan on a hot grill until done—usually, it takes about ten minutes. Place your flour tortillas in foil on the unheated part of the grill so they warm up as the fish cooks. (The fish can also be cooked in the oven at 425 degrees for about the same amount of time as on the grill.) The fish is done when it flakes.
The fish goes on the hot tortilla, top with the slaw, and serve with a wedge of lime. If you want to get fancy put half an avocado on a hunk of lettuce to fill up the plate, grab another beer or glass of white wine and enjoy.