Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Parmesan and Tortilla Crusted Tilapia

So, my family isn't really "fish addicted" like they are carbs. Which is too bad, because we all know that fish is healthy for us, and even my previously fish-phobic son has grown-up and over the years learned to like fish. My experience with cooking fish hasn't always been the greatest either - I'm so nervous about under-cooking it and getting ill that I tend to over cook it. I also tend to be a ocean fish vs. stream fish. I am not a fan of trout, salmon, or bass, but like halibut, shark and cod. So when I saw a great DIY project for a aquaponics set up with plants in the top and tilapia fish in tanks in the bottom, I thought "wow, I should figure out some ways to cook tilapia!"

Turns out, Tilapia is pretty good. It's a mild-flavored fish, like cod and haddock, and it's really inexpensive (for now.) So, after buying some pre-flavored and frozen kind to try it out, I decided to start learning how to make it myself. Most of the recipes I found were of two kinds:
  • Lemon-Pepper / Lime / Dill / Parsley / Bland
  • Southwestern / Tortilla / Cumin / Chili Powder / Spicy
Since we had *just* gotten home from Hubby's tummy doctor and his medicine for acid reflux had gone up and been added to, I didn't want to go the spicy route and have him sitting up all night miserable. I didn't look forward to the bland lemon-pepper route either though. So I told the guys "I found some recipes that look good, but I'm gonna mix them, so tonight is going to be an original!" To which they both shrugged and made comments the way of "we'll eat whatever you put in front of us, you rarely bomb" so to the kitchen I went.

Here's what I came up with:
  • 3 good sized tilapia filets, could have easily done 4...
  • about 1 cup of smashed tortilla chips crumbs
  • about 1/2 tablespoon of Mrs. Dash Fiesta Lime seasoning
  • about 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb seasoning
  • about 1 tablespoon garlic granules
  • about 1/2 cup of "powder style" Parmesan cheese (you know, the shelf stable stuff for spaghetti) 
  • 1/2 cube of real butter, softened
I mixed all the spices and stuff together in a pie plate, and rinsed the fish with cold water, pat dry with a paper towel, and then  *butter them.*  Now to do this, I picked it up with my hands and smeared a thin layer of the softened butter all over both sides, dropped it in the crusty mixture, and flipped it over a couple of times, making sure it was well encrusted. There's no "neat" way to do this, just get your hands into it. Then lay them in a baking pan, preferably not overlapping.

Cook at 400* in a pre-heated oven for 10 minutes, flip gently with a spatula and cook another 10 minutes or until done, whichever comes LAST. Fish is funny stuff, but done well it's fast, tasty and healthy. Of course the mac and cheese I served with it wasn't as healthy, but was nice as a *side-dish* rather than part of the main dish, as it so often is when you're pinching pennies. I even went over the top and let the guys have PEAS for the vegetable with the fish. (For those of you who don't know, I despise cooked peas of any kind. I'll spare you the horrid phrase I use for them, but trust me when I say it's very uncomplimentary and graphic. Snow peas in salad is ok, but anything else is....ewww.)

So, the guys ate the peas first. The mac and cheese was an off brand from a box, so it was kinda bland. But the fish was flavorful while still being quite mild. Personally, I'm going to tinker with it to add some more flavor, but it's a very nice "happy medium" between the two extremes I found on-line. Realistically, I may just add a little salt, or some powdered lemon or lime juice (Real-Lemon is awesome stuff.) Not much. It's really good the way it is, but I'm not done

One of the recipes I found was for a raspberry and honey fish, and it used raspberry vinegar - I have a raspberry walnut vinaigrette salad dressing I'm willing to sacrifice a little of to try and use instead, so I think that's my next experiment for the tilapia, and there looked like a good one with crushed Ritz crackers, so I may try something with that too, not sure yet. One of my ex's is the only one who's ever made salmon a way I would eat, with a mix of mayo, lemon juice, and dill heavily slathered all over it, and then wrapped in foil and baked...maybe I'll try that with the tilapia as well.


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