Cherry Tomato Tequila Butter Salsa with Fried Fish

By • August 12, 2011 • 31 Comments

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Author Notes: I can't remember where the inspiration for this recipe originated, most likely a food magazine from the 1990's. I've never written it down until posting, Google search does not come up with any overlap.

It's changed over the years for me, using cilantro stems, and using cherry tomatoes for the salsa base.
For quicker use, I've used chunky jarred salsa instead of fresh product, but of course the fresh is much better. I normally use the "Christmas grape" cherry tomatoes when I make it fresh.

You can use this sauce with chicken cutlets pounded flat and treated in the same manner. Cilantro is very optional at my house, however, for cilantro haters chopped Cilantro stems--no leaf--will give you the flavor without the cilantro reaction that some find distasteful. You can substitute chopped parsley or omit.
Any firm fish can be used, but the cornmeal and strong tones of the catfish work well with the flavorful salsa butter. - Sam1148
Sam1148

Food52 Review: Sam1148 uses catfish for this simple stunner, but really you could use any mild, white fish. A light cornmeal coating gives the fish a delicate crunch, and while you may be skeptical of the scant amount of lime juice and garlic you use to marinate the fish, it manages to shine through. But the salsa is the real star of the show: plump cherry tomatoes cook down with onion, tequila, jalapeno, cilantro and lime, and after you add a knob of butter, you've got a silky, spicy, vibrant sauce for the crisp, fresh fish. -A&MA&M

Serves 2

Marinade and coating for fish

  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • 2 fillets of catfish
  • 1/2 cup corn meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • ground black pepper

Tequila Butter Salsa

  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes (cut in half)
  • 1-2 jalapeno pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped cilantro stems
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • water or chicken stock
  • 1-2 shots tequila
  • lime juice and/or zest to taste
  • 2-3 tablespoons soft butter
  • 2 chopped green onions for garnish
  1. Mix the olive oil, lime juice, and garlic with the fish (or chicken) in a non-reactive bowl and let rest for 1 hour.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add tomatoes, jalapeno, onion, garlic, cilantro stems, and lime zest and begin cooking it down, stirring occasionally. It should be well cooked down and bright red, and the juices should be a bit reduced. Add stock or water to the salsa if needed to keep it from sticking. Add tequila; I go for 2 shots of tequila and add a bit more lime zest and lime juice for mine. Cook some more until the juices are reduced.
  3. Heat a thin layer of butter and/or oil in another large saute pan over medium high heat. Season the corn meal with salt and pepper, dredge the fish and fry in the olive oil or butter until golden brown on both sides, flipping once, about 1-2 minutes. Remove to a warm oven while you finish the sauce.
  4. To finish: Stir in a few tablespoons of softened butter off heat. Do this off the heat as you want the butter to make a creamy sauce. Serve over the fish. Garnish with chopped green onions and serve with lime wedges. Note: A nice crunchy finishing salt as an option for guests can be served along side the dish.
Jump to Comments (31)

Tags: catfish, cherry tomatoes, salsa, tequila

Comments (31) Questions (0)

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about 1 year ago A&O

Can this be canned if I didn't add the butter?

Sit2

about 1 year ago Sam1148

Sam is a trusted home cook.

I've used Jarred Salsa for this as a short cut, and cooked that down a bit, adding water as needed while cooking it down; adding the tequila and butter at the end. So make a basic salasa and can that---then proceed with the cook down, tequila and butter.

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over 1 year ago amyjk

I couldn't find decent catfish so I made this with chicken. OH MY GOD it's delicious!!! Plenty of salsa leftover and can't wait to have more, probably for breakfast it was that good! I look forward to getting some nice catfish and making it with that. I used mini heirloom tomatoes from trader joes and the colors were beautiful. A+++ recipe

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about 2 years ago dalibor

I subbed vodka for tequila and it worked beautifully! Excellent dish that is healthy for the season and colorful!

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over 2 years ago gonz

Just found this sight, and can,t wait to use the recipes, looks veryyy high end, but yet simple. Will try the fried fish with the cherry tomatoe salsa manana. Thanks amelia

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over 2 years ago gonz

Just found this sight, and can,t wait to use the recipes, looks veryyy high end, but yet simple. Will try the fried fish with the cherry tomatoe salsa manana. Thanks amelia

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over 2 years ago UTCobb

I've used this salsa with fried triggerfish, mahi, catfish, and grouper. And the other night I broiled some scallops and then topped them with the salsa...they too, were delicious! This recipe is wonderful! Thank you!

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over 2 years ago UTCobb

I've used this salsa with fried triggerfish, mahi, catfish, and grouper. And the other night I broiled some scallops and then topped them with the salsa...they too, were delicious! This recipe is wonderful! Thank you!

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almost 3 years ago Heidrun

This surprised me a bit. It sounded like it was going to be very light, but it ended up being one of the more umami-y dishes I've had in a while. My girlfriend is a pescatarian, so it's nice to have a slightly heavy dish coming from fish for a change. Great recipe.

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about 3 years ago jennvill

Wow...out of this world! My fish loving husband was oh so pleased! Can't wait to try another's suggestion with fish tacos. I will be making this often. :)

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about 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Congratulations on being the runner up. I am making it this weekend I think this is an amazing recipe all of it, fish, the salsa just so delicious.

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about 3 years ago deanna1001

I just made the salsa part to use with a roasted pork tenderloin. Wow! Fabulous! Will definitely try this with fish, but it was great over the pork (seasoned with s&p and chili powder then browned and roasted for 25 minutes.)

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about 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Made this fish on Saturday . . . fantastic!! Didn't have any tequila, so I served the chimichurri sauce + mayo combo from sdebrango's Your Best Flank Steak winner, and my "Summer Salad." Another all-food52 meal, and it was an excellent, if I may say so. ;o)

Sit2

about 3 years ago Sam1148

Sam is a trusted home cook.

To add another use for this salsa. Use it with fish cut in strips and fried for a topping for fish tacos. With a crunchy lime/olive oil slaw on top.
I do take a short cut sometimes and use jarred salsa. which makes a creamy full covering salsa, but boost it up with fresh herbs, green onions and lime juice to finish. Cook down the jarred salsa with garlic and lime juice and stock. Loosen it up with the tequila and butter at end game.

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about 3 years ago phelonious

just discovered food52 via huffington post, hands down the best food site i have ever used. can't wait to try some of the recipes.

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about 3 years ago EmilyC

Congrats on being a finalist! I love all of the elements of this dish!

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about 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Congratulations! This looks fantastic! I love the sound of both the crispy fish and that amazing salsa.

Sit2

about 3 years ago Sam1148

Sam is a trusted home cook.

Wow, Thanks everyone! What wonderful pictures. This might get me over my fear of quantifying recipes.

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about 3 years ago gingerroot

Congrats! I don't eat fish very often, but this sounds delicious. I hope to try it this weekend.

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about 3 years ago gingerroot

I could not wait for the weekend. Had everything on hand except for the fish and made this for dinner last night. Served over quinoa, this is a delicious dish. I subbed a hatch chile (finally sourced a few!!) for the jalapeno and rock cod for the catfish. The crisp coating contrasted by the delicate fish and topped with such a stunning salsa makes this something I will come back to repeatedly. Congrats again.

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about 3 years ago BlueKaleRoad

Congratulations! I'm always looking for new fish recipes and this one is stunning.

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about 3 years ago healthierkitchen

Yay Sam!! Sounds terrific!

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about 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Wow! This sounds delicious even for someone who's not a big fan of fish. Congrats, Sam!

Sit2

about 3 years ago Sam1148

Sam is a trusted home cook.

We use it with chicken cutlets. Just up the marinade amount and give it some more time to soak.

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about 3 years ago wssmom

very very very nice, congrats on being a finalist!

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about 3 years ago Sagegreen

Congrats, Sam on being a finalist. This salsa sounds stunning!

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about 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Congrats Sam1148, I liked this recipe from the beginning that salsa is amazing.

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about 3 years ago Bevi

WOw! Congrats!

Buddhacat

about 3 years ago SKK

The salsa sounds like it will be amazing!

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about 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Fantastic, I love catfish and the salsa is perfect.

Nog

about 3 years ago Niknud

mmmmm.....sounds delicious. Shouldn't there be a step reading something like, "check tequila for quality. Repeat"?