Sunday, December 4, 2011

Pan-Fried Tilapia

I’ll be honest:  I overcooked my fish.  I am advertising my own error because it didn’t matter.  My pan-fried tilapia was light, flakey, with a crisp coating, despite spending a little too much time in the frying pan.  It is a foolproof recipe, and this is coming from a fool who messed it up.

My mom tends to work really late, but one night last week she got home early enough to make this simple dinner, and I decided to do the same.  I am now making a point to use and enjoy my time outside of work, which makes me happier both at work and at home.  The key to enjoying your evenings is to actually do something you enjoy.  Who knew?  Thus, pan-fried tilapia made its way on to my after-work to do list. 

Tilapia has many attractive features that make it perfect for a quick, yet luxurious weeknight meal.  It cooks quickly; it’s versatile with its mild flavor and flaky texture; it’s inexpensive (I spend about four dollars on the fish and still had leftovers).

The process is not unfamiliar: dip the fish into egg wash, give it a dusting of flour and/or breadcrumbs, and cook it in a thin, even layer of hot oil.  My mom was adamant about purchasing “Drake’s Crispy Fry” to dredge the fish in (it was always in our pantry growing up).  I made a special trip to King Sooper’s for it in 15-degree weather, and they didn’t have it.  In my dismay, exhaustion, and defeat, I bought a package of seasoned flour, although I was sure I would regret it (Kentucky Kernel Seasoned Flour, to be exact). 

Why would I buy seasoned flour instead of simply seasoning my own flour?  I was prepared to kick myself later, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.  It turns out that there is a reason to buy seasoned flour: it is perfectly seasoned!  I tasted a little pinch of the flour before cooking, so I could get my self-loathing under way, but instead I was celebrating my awesome decision making skills. It was delicious (courtesy of pepper, mysterious “herbs and spices,” salt, and a small amount of MSG, which everyone knows is the best).

So, with a sense of celebration, I dredged, I fried, I spritzed with lemon and I enjoyed.  The fish had a crisp, yet light crust.  I served the fish (to myself) with simple pan roasted brussel sprouts, and a baked potato.  I felt so wholesome with all of my food groups.  Make sure you run your kitchen fan and vent a window while you fry the fish.  That way, when you tell your co-workers the next day about your delicious dinner, they will actually be surprised, instead of already being fully aware of what you had for dinner because of the fish odor emanating off you.  I had this happen with curry once, and it was not much fun.

Pan-Fried Tilapia

Tilapia fillets, rinsed and patted dry (I made 3 fillets, almost 3/4 of a pound)
½ to 1 cup of seasoned flour (depending on how much fish you are making)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
2-3 tablespoons olive oil (more as needed if you are working in multiple batches)
2-3 tablespoons canola oil (more as needed if you are working in multiple batches)

-       Beat together eggs and milk in a wide shallow bowl, and add the seasoned breadcrumbs to another wide shallow bowl.
-       Working with one tilapia fillet at a time, dip it first in egg wash, then into the seasoned flow.  Coat it evenly with flow and shake of excess.  Set aside and repeat with remaining fillets.
-       Using a large heavy bottomed skillet, preheat both oils over medium-high to high heat for 2-3 minutes.  You can test the heat of the oil by dropping a pinch of flour into the oil.  It should sizzle immediately.
-       Place the fish fillets in the hot oil (do not crowd them).  Cook for 4-5 minutes per side on medium-high to high heat (depending on how hot your stove cooks; you want the fish to brown).

-       Drain cooked fish on paper towel.  Spritz with lemon and enjoy.

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