Simply Simple Sauteed Tilapia

good talapia with spicy fish fillet jalapenos and lemonToo many people are afraid to cook fish at home. This is a subject I’ve spoken on before in a very general way. But today I thought I should give a specific, simple example of what I mean.

Because, sometimes simple really is best.

Especially when it comes to a tender and delicate fillet of fish. It takes a light hand a few simple ingredients, but a pan sauteed fish is a beautiful thing to behold.

It’s a method you should master.

In this case tilapia, which is a very delicious and sustainable fish. The Seafood Watch rates it a “best choice“if it is tilapia grown and farmed in the U.S. But please “avoid farmed tilapia from China and Taiwan, where pollution and weak management are common.”

Tilapia is a delicate, white (to pinky rose) fleshed fish. It is a very good choice for pan sautéing because it is easy to overcook and benefits from a quick hot pan and all of your attention.

Like I said simple is best.

fresh jalapenosPan Sauteed Tilapia with Lemon and Jalapeno based on a prepartion for sole I found in Martha Stewart Living. Though the jalapenos are all me.

You’ll just need a few ingredients: lemons, salt, butter and flour. The extra finely ground varieties like Wondra; keep this preparation light, rather than crusty. So try them if you have them.

I am serving mine with some seared jalapeno halves. But they are strictly an add-on in this dish. I like the bit of heat that they add to the oil the fish cooks in, plus a warm seared jalapeno is something I eat regularly and enjoy with a wide variety of foods.

You could substitute some capers and garlic slices if you like. But even that is not mandatory. Whichever way you go you will need some lemon slices. I would call that a “must have”.

spicy pan seared jalapenosIf you are going to serve the jalapenos (or capers and garlic) start with them.

Add the sparest amount of oil to the pan, really just enough to slick the bottom.  We are searing, not frying.

I cut the peppers in half lengthwise and put them into a relatively hot pan. Call it medium-high. Start with the cut side down.  This way as they cook they will flatten a bit. So when you turn them over more of the pepper’s surface will come in contact with the pan.

Get them good and brown on both sides, but do not cook them too long. You want a little crispness left in them so you don’t dissipate all their fiery goodness.

Remove them to a plate, but keep them handy.
flour dusted tilapia fillets
Season the fish with a little salt and a light dusting of Wondra on both sides.

Next melt one or two tablespoons of butter in the same pan (I hope you chose a sloped sided frying pan to assist in turning the fish. Should I have mentioned that earlier?).

When the butter gets foamy, but not yet brown, add the fish to the pan. Cook for 1 1/2 minutes. Flip the fillets. Add the compulsory lemon slices and cook another 1 to 2 minutes. If you are using the jalapenos (or capers and garlic) they go back into the pan now too.

That’s it. You could deglaze the pan with some white wine since you probably have a glass in your hand. It would make a nice sauce. But again this is only if you are a brown nose and looking for extra-credit.

I am serving mine with the jalapenos, braised chard and Dash Of Stash’s orange jicama salad.

Serve them warm.


Greg Henry