Things to consider: fish fillets.

Tilapia Fillets

Tilapia Fillets

I think nondescript fish fillets are one of those treasured foodstuffs that are always a good grab as you peruse the supermarket. I think it’s as valid a blank canvas as chicken and more tasty to boot. I remember when I was younger my parents would sometimes get flounder, bread it and cook it in the oven and I always loved it. Now, many of us are lucky enough to have a greater assortment of fish available throughout the year and the ability to grab and effortlessly cook up whatever looks good/is on sale is a powerful asset to the home cook.  I try to eat fish at least once a week for reasons both of both health and deliciousness.  Sometimes I go for broke with my fish prep, but when life gets hard and we get busy, you gotta be able to shoot from the hip.  Three steps to yummy fish.  Go!

Step One: Buy the fish. Health professionals sing the praises of fish and with good reason. This is not a nutrition site and I won’t bore you extolling the virtues of omega-3’s for pages on end (btw- if omega-3 is your bottom line, opt for wild tilapia).  Long story short: Fish? Yes. Go to it. Look for smooth, unbroken flesh and a lack of that sad, tired look. Keep cold until use, no more than 2 days. If the fish is fresh (just ask), you can freeze it yourself. If it’s previously frozen, do not re-freeze (if you need it frozen ask, buy it frozen- they usually have extra they haven’t thawed yet).  As long as the tag doesn’t say “previously frozen”, (wild or farmed) you’re fine.

Step Two: Bread it. You can easily use store-bought crumbs. I would recommend the seasoned ones. I use the Italian variety all the time, but their are several. Making fresh is easy enough. I used them recently, but mainly because I had leftovers. There wasn’t a huge difference and the fresh can burn more easily. Another option is to mix in you fave dry spices. I love adding ground chipotle to the breading for some smokey heat. Anyway- beat one egg and add to a shallow dish and add the crummies to another. Dip the fish filets in one then the other. I try to pat down the crumbs to get a denser coating. Let them rest for 20 minutes (keep cool).

Step Three: Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in your grill-pan between medium and medium-high. Sometimes I drizzle the fish as well so the coating will cook up crisper (this is where fresh crumbs would help).  Carefully place in the pan and cook for 6-8 minutes per side, depending on the thickness.  Flip once.  Cook until flesh is *at least* 131 F.  Merry Fishmas!  I mean… Buon Apetito!

  1. xxNicky said:

    Q: How long can you have fish in the freezer?

  2. First off: excellent question!!!

    It depends on how it’s packaged–if, for example, you get a frozen fillet from your fishmonger (and yes, the guys and gals behind the fish counter at your supermarket are your fishmongers!) that’s been vacuumed packed, it’ll last for a few months–go by the processor’s sell by date as the latest you can use the product and get the best taste (because there are no such things as expiration dates). And if you’re buying frozen fillets or steaks, ask them if they have any vacuum-packed products before buying what’s in the case–ultimately, they will last the longest.

    For fresh fish, we’ve kept it for a few weeks at most–Michael, you care to chime in?

  3. michael said:

    I think around a month for DIY freezer jobs, and if you’re super-careful about wrapping and sealing it up (remove all air and double cover everything), maybe two. Sometimes I wrap in plastic and heavy foil to be sure. Just use the old sniffer when you defrost it, and as long as it smells ok, it should be fine.

  4. Penny said:

    I looooove tilapia. Usually I will prepare it much the same way, but when I pan fry it I toss in a few slices of lemon (I like most things lemony), some thin slices of Fresno pepper and, at the end, fresh parsley. It gives some heat and tang to the fish.

  5. @Penny: Lemon+fish=one way to culinary bliss. Michael loves to squeeze some lemon on the fish when they are on the plate–it’s like a nice last chance for extra acidity.

    I’m sure I’ll be jealous because you live in CA (and therefore I’m guessing cannot buy it reasonably), but what exactly is a Fresno pepper?

  6. Penny said:

    E, they are like small red peppers – I really just started buying them, but they are found with all of the other small hot peppers! I actually had to look it up because I just grab them without looking at the name….

  7. QC said:

    What I don’t get is how come I never heard of tilapia until maybe a couple years ago. Now it’s ubiquitous. Weird.

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