Canned Smoked Herring Is The Key To Easy Yet Flavorful Fish Tacos

Fish tacos are a delight but, for the home chef, they can put up some roadblocks. First, there is access to the fresh fish that makes them so special. While modern grocery stores and shipping have made this largely irrelevant, a taco made with frozen, days-old fish just doesn't hit the same. The second roadblock is cooking fish at home; it's a prospect that scares some neophyte cooks. For others, the strong smell can simply be off-putting. A secret weapon, though, lies waiting in nearly every grocery store and market, and it isn't even refrigerated.

Canned smoked herring is a delicious and easy-to-work-with option for fish tacos that are bursting with flavor and can be on the plate in mere minutes. Herring are a small, oily fish caught in the Atlantic and Pacific with a mild flavor and flaky texture. When salted and smoked, herring (aka kippers in the U.K.) are often canned as filets, though you may also find them pickled, a popular preparation in Sweden. If you're at all squeamish about canned fish and the possibility of bones or heads, worry not; canned smoked herring is just the meat, though in whole filet form.

Depending on how many you're feeding and the size of the cans of smoked herring, one or two should do the trick. As they are already cooked, it's as easy as peeling the can open and heating the herring with whatever added ingredients you'd like.

Limitless ways to dress herring tacos

Smokiness and tacos go together like a hand in a glove, so the smokiness of the herring is a perfect addition to any sort of taco you choose to build. If you want to amplify the smokiness, consider a few approaches. One would be to saute your canned smoked herring with some diced, hydrated chipotle chiles or chipotles in adobo. These smoked peppers add a good amount of heat along with the kiss of the fire and, when packed in adobo, a bit of sweet and tangy flavor. Additionally or instead, a chipotle or charred tomato salsa can be used as an accent to a finished canned smoked herring taco.

If the fish has quite enough smokiness for your tastes, but you still wish to heat the fish, consider adding some thinly sliced white or yellow onions and peppers (such as poblano or red or yellow bell peppers) to the pan. These will soften, caramelize a bit, and accent the warmed-through fish with a vegetal sweetness.

To dress your taco after the fish is heated, consider the fact that canned smoked herring is both rich and deep in flavor. Thus, pops of brightness go a long way, and that can be as simple as some diced white onion or a squeeze of lime juice. If you want to really zhuzh it up, opt for a salsa that has chunks of grapefruit, jalapeños, lime juice, and a pop of mint.