08 July 2008

A tale of Tilapia

My wife will never believe it, but last night, I made fish for dinner.

See, she's away for a week, leaving me and the dog to fend off the cat. And although I usually resort to bachelor foods when she's away (read: steak, KFC, or the like) just for the hell of it, this time, I seem to be keeping on my normal culinary course.

And so, last night, I made fish for dinner.

Of course the other side to this coin is that I normally don't eat or cook a lot of fish. I find it leaves me a bit hungry, and I'm just not that into it. Yes, some good fresh fish can make me happy, and I love shrimp or scallops (technically, I know, shellfish). But cooking a filet or whathaveyou? Not up my alley. It's something I do because I'm supposed to eat more seafood. And it's something I do to challenge myself in the kitchen, to expand my horizons, as it were.

But last night was about a hankering. For white fish. Mild fish. Not any idea on how I wanted it prepared, just that I was going to have fish.

Enter the Tilapia. 800g of mild white fileted fish.

And the inspiration for how to cook it? I decided I wanted fish and chips-like flavour, without the deep fryer. And I had some fresh-basil and garlic mixture left from the previous night's Chops Italia (recipe another day). And precut lime wedges from last weekend. So it all came together.


10-12 mini potatoes, red or white (about 4 per person)

Scrub but do not peel the potatoes (does anyone peel mini potatoes?!).
Halve the potatoes, then put in a pot of water. Set to boil.
(Set a medium frying pan out, with a bit of oil, but don't turn it on yet ... it's for later!)

Now for the fish, set a heavy (cast iron) frying pan on medium heat, with about two TBSP oil.

800-900g fresh Tilapia (or other white fish) filets
2 Tbsp flour
1 egg, lightly beaten with 2 Tbsp of milk
1/2 to 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
(these are the hot new thing...use any old breadcrumbs if you don't have the over-priced, much ballyhooed Panko crumbs!)

Put each of these three items in its own shallow bowl or large plate. Add some salt and pepper to the breadcrumbs, and toss.

Dip the filets, one at a time, making sure each gets fully coated, in the flour, then the egg bath, and finally the breadcrumbs. Set each filet in the hot cast iron frying pan. Don't wiggle or toss them or anything, just set them in and walk away. Walk away, I said!

Check those potatoes. Are they slightly fork-tender yet? Fire up your second frying pan, on medium heat. Now drain the potatoes, and place them, cut sides down, in the frying pan (make sure the pan is hot first). Add sea salt, black pepper, and some minced garlic. Throw in some fresh basil, or oregano, or rosemary...something green and tasty, or heck, all things green and tasty. Toss on a bit of parmesan cheese if you're so inclined. Just keep the potatoes cut-side down, which lets them crisp up and soak up some flavour. Wiggle them around, gently. Now leave them alone.

By now, about 6 or 7 minutes should have passed, so it's time to flip your fish filets. The side that was cooking should be nice and brown. If it's hot as Hades and you don't want to use the oven, keep the frying pan on the stove (on a slightly lower heat) and finish the fish in that. If not, have your oven preheated to 400 degrees, and throw the frying pan in there for 8 minutes. This prevents your fish from burning, and crisps it up more.

Either way, give that fish those eight minutes, then remove it and place it on serving plates. Toss your potatoes right on there too. Stellar. Serve with a bit of tartar sauce* and a lemon or lime wedge. Corn on the cob would be a nice side dish, or perhaps a little coleslaw. Or hey, just a good green salad.


2/3 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp green relish OR finely chopped Dill or Gherkin pickles
Salt and Pepper
Tiny squeeze of lime juice

Mix and cover, set in fridge to allow flavours to blend. Will keep for a day or two. But you're going to eat it all anyway.

This meal goes very well with some company and a nice Chilean Sauvignon Blanc (grassy, herbaceous, not too too dry). I didn't have the company, but I sure had the wine.

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