Pan Crusted Tilapia

Pan Crusted Tilapia


Fear Conquered: Fish

I'm not vegetarian or vegan, but recently I've been eating a lot more beans, fish and dairy - and a lot less red meat and poultry. I've never been a huge red meat fan and since I still can't cook a steak properly (or a pork chop for that matter), I've just quit buying red meats altogether. Maybe someday I'll try harder with red meats, but for now I'm happy to depend on my friend Dan for grilled steaks and pork chops.

Thanks to my dad, I grew up on all kinds of beans. But sitting down to a bowl of beans and rice doesn't work for me. I've tried creating a couple bean dishes, but so far I haven't come up with anything worth sharing. I've made hummus a couple times and with a few more tweaks I'll be ready to post my take on hummus. With a little effort, I'm sure I could pull together some soups too - black bean, chile, tortilla, etc. But to be honest, beans bore me and thus I've turned to fish.

Pan Crusted Tilapia

I've started with tilapia because it's got a nice mild flavor, it stands up to pan-searing, battering and baking, and it's not the proverbial salmon steak. Since most fish I've had is either bland and boring or overcooked and fishy, I started from scratch and built my own recipe. Going back to my KISS concept, my recipe is simple, flavorful and still relatively wholesome (no transfats, no preservatives, few refined products, etc). After forcing Boyfriend Javelin to eat four versions of this same tilapia recipe (he didn't complain too loudly), I finally have a fish dish I'm happy with.

This version of tilapia is really built around basic techniques: dredging, frying/browning and using the reliable lemon standby to compliment the fish. My hypocritical little secret is that I buy frozen tilapia. I know, I know. Isn't the whole point of KISS to cook with fresh ingredients while eliminating wasteful packaging? Yes. And in my ideal world, I would catch my own fish (or buy them fresh locally) and avoid all packaging of any kind.

But since I'm still muddling my way through seafood (seriously, there's a huge knowledge gap) I refuse to blindly pay twice the price of frozen for slabs of "fresh" supermarket fish. Once I'm comfortable cooking it, then I'll search out and pay for real fresh fish.


Photo Tutorial

Olive Oil and Butter in Saute Pan
Heat the oil and butter in a large saute pan over medium heat.

Cornmeal, Flour and Seasonings for Tilapia
Whisk together the cornmeal, flour and seasonings in a deep plate.

Tilapia Fillets and Dredging Flour
Pat the tilapia fillets dry on paper towels.

Dredging Tilapia Thru Flour and Seasonings
Dredge each fillet through the flour and seasonings.

Tilapia Added to Hot Oil
Add the fillets to the hot oil. Do not overcrowd the pan.

Tilapia Fillets, Turned
After browning the fish for 3-4 minutes on one side, gently turn the fish with a spatula and brown for another 3-4 minutes.

Tilapia Fillets Draining on Paper Towels
Transfer the fillets to a paper towel lined plate to drain.

Pan Crusted Tilapia
Serve the drained fillets with wedges of lemon.


Pan-Crusted Tilapia

    by Javelin Warrior
     Prep Time: 10 min
     Cook Time: 10 min

Ingredients (4 fillets)
  • 4 tilapia fillets
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons yellow stone-ground cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  1. Melt the butter with the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until the butter stops foaming and the pan is very hot; line a separate large plate with paper towels and set aside
  2. In a deep plate or pie plate, whisk together the flour, chipotle chile pepper, paprika and salt; dredge the tilapia fillets through the seasoned flour until evenly coated
  3. Transfer the coated fillets to the hot pan and brown the fillets for 3-4 minutes on each side until crisp and lightly browned; transfer the fillets to the lined plate to drain
  4. Serve the drained fillets with wedges of lemon
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Hungry for Tips?
  • Cornmeal: The cornmeal in this recipe provides an essential crispiness for the fish. But it’s important to use finely ground cornmeal. The medium grind adds an odd texture and seems to burn instead of crisping.
  • Hot Pan: The oil and butter should sizzle and bubble as soon as the fillet touches the pan, otherwise the oil is not hot enough and the fish will start to absorb the oil instead of browning.
  • Flipping: Do not use tongs to turn or transfer tilapia fillets or they will flake apart. Instead, use a spatula to gently turn and lift the fish.
  • Pairings: I paired this tilapia with mashed potatoes, but asparagus, green string beans or risotto would be other great pairings.

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  1. You should look into shellfish. Shrimp, mussels, clams ... easy and delicious.

  2. i've recently been making shrimp, although again starting with the frozen. i think i'll try scallops next, because i love scallops.

    do you have any specific recipes you like? or techniques? mussels and clams scare me a little. it's probably the shell. :)


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