Thursday, December 25, 2008

Tilapia filets

This is not the most creative thing I’ve done of late. However, it was startlingly good. I mentioned using bisquick in place of flour the other day, I think. It brings something lovely to the party – extra crispness and good texture to the coating. These tilapia filets are just like the best fish sticks you ever had.

Tilapia is inexpensive and universally available (particularly in Mexican restaurants where they deep-fry it whole without mercy). I’ll offer two ways to prepare it. One is pan-fried, the other is oven-fried.

Tilapia filets
2 5-6 oz. tilapia filets (substitutes: cod, catfish)
1 egg
panko breadcrumbs (or regular, un-flavored crumbs)
salt, pepper and paprika
vegetable oil

Rinse the filets under cold water and dry them well with paper towels.

Sprinkle the fish with salt, pepper and paprika. Use your hands to press the spices into the fish so that they stick.

Put some bisquick in a fine-mesh strainer and shake it over the fish, coating it with a fine layer on both sides.

Lightly beat the egg with 1 tbsp water or milk.

Dip the filets, one by one, into the egg, coating them completely. Let the excess drip off and coat the filets with breadcrumbs, pressing them onto the surface.

Place the filets on a wire rack over a plate and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes. Remove them from the fridge about 30 minutes before cooking. This is crucial to getting the coating firmly setup enough that it will not separate from the fish while frying. If you are using method 2 below, this step is not necessary.

Method 1: Coat a sauté pan, large enough to accommodate both filets in one layer, with 1/8” vegetable oil. Heat the oil over medium high heat until a spatter of water pops instantly when flicked in. Carefully lay the fish into the pan. Fry undisturbed for 4 minutes. Use 2 large spatulas, one on top and one underneath, and great care to turn the filets over. Fry on the second side for 3 minutes. Remove the filets to the wire rack which you’ve cover with a layer of paper towels. Sprinkle a bit of fine salt on them and let them rest for just a minute. Serve on hot plates and dig in immediately while the fish is still hot and very crispy.

Method 2: Spray the wire rack with cooking spray and place it over a baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 400°. Bake the filets for 20 minutes or until the coating is firm and lightly browned. No resting time required, but do sprinkle a bit more fine salt on them.

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