Posts Tagged Fish

Broiled Tilapia with Cajun Boiled Potatoes

Cajun food scares me.

I don’t know the first thing about Cajun cooking. It seems to involve a lot of shellfish and pots large enough to boil small children in their depths. People argue about whether to call the creepy-crawly things crawfish or crayfish or crawdads or mudbugs. They pronounce “boil” as “berl.” They insist that the only possible way to “berl” anything is with Zatarain’s Crab Boil, and they do not want to hear that I won’t be putting a single crawbeastie into the mix.


These are for stirring giant murky cauldrons of crawdads, apparently, though I suspect they’d do in a pinch to paddle a small canoe.


You can’t boil tilapia. I mean, you can try, but I’m betting it’ll fall apart. So the fish here gets broiled or smoked, and the potatoes get boiled–er, berled.

This hardly qualifies as a recipe. It’s insanely easy. Thank goodness for that.


Ingredients (serves 2)

For the fish:


2 tilapia fillets

1/4 t white pepper

1/4 t steak seasoning (essentially black pepper and garlic)

1 1/2 T hot paprika

salt to taste

2 T smoker chips (if smoking)

For the potatoes:


8 small red potatoes

1 1/2 quarts water

1/3 cup Zatarain’s Crab Boil seasoning

2 t salt


For the fish:

Mix the white pepper, steak seasoning, paprika, and salt together. Rub the tilapia generously with the spice mixture. If using a stovetop smoker (which I highly recommend), add the wood chips underneath the drip tray and smoke on medium-high for about 15 minutes. If broiling, heat the oven and broil about 5 minutes per side.


For the potatoes:

Add salt and seasoning to the water and bring it to a boil. It will be terrifying and murky. Add the potatoes. Boil 15 minutes or until fork-tender.


Add a side of steamed vegetables and voilà, dinner.


A word of warning–hot paprika isn’t all that hot, but this fish uses a lot of it. If you’re not a fan of spice, sweet paprika will do nicely in its place.


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Not Fish and Chips

On the rare occasion that I ordered fish in Dallas, it was always at a pub, and it was always fish and chips. Everything is delicious deep-fried and served with fried potatoes, and since I was eating fish at most once or twice a year there, it really didn’t feel like an overindulgence to have fish in its most unhealthy form when I did decide to be in a fish mood.


I should probably add that being in the mood for fish only ever happened in pubs (particularly one pub) for a reason. I have a psychological block against eating seafood when I am nowhere near the sea. I know the fish is safe, that it’s transported frozen and often quickly but I just can’t do it.

After four or five shots of whiskey, I can happily store all thoughts of seafood safety elsewhere. And after four or five shots of whiskey, any pretensions to a healthy dinner plan have long since scurried off leaving only a choice between a reuben sandwich (delightful, except that it always comes with too much dressing, and no amount of explaining the proper dressing/sandwich ratio or wheedling to leave it on the side will sway the bartender one whit) and a plate of fish and chips with a mild, earthy curry sauce to dip them in.


Here, I am not afraid to eat the fish. Even the fish that originated in the Honduras and therefore, one can safely assume, has undergone just as much transport and freezing and potential issues as any trout sold in Texas. Like I said, it was a psychological block, not a sensible one. So here, we eat fish, often tilapia, often Honduran, about twice a week. Fish and chips are lovely for tipsy bar nights (of which I have enjoyed none since the move) but rubbish for reasonable weeknights on days when I want to feel a net benefit from my cardio routine. But fish and potato remains a sound and worthy combination, and crisp textures will win in any kitchen, any time. What is a cook to do?


Luckily, I have a cast iron skillet. It turns out that crispy baked potato and fish are just as tasty as fried ones. Probably tastier, in fact, because enjoying them in my own dining room obviates the need to breathe in all that not-so-lovely bar smoke while eating.

Ingredients (serves 2)


1/2 lb white fish fillets

1 largish baking potato

1-2 T olive oil

1 lemon

2 cloves garlic

1/2 t lemongrass

1/2 t salt

white pepper, to taste


Heat the oven to 400°F. Combine lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic in an 11-inch cast-iron skillet (or other large, heavy metal pan).


Cut the potato into about 1/8 inch slices. You could use a mandoline. I hated my mandoline, so I gave it to a friend back in Dallas. A sharp knife does the job nicely.


Arrange the slices in concentric rings in the skillet. Look how pretty!


Brush the tops of the potatoes with just a touch of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, white pepper, and lemongrass.


Bake for 30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender but not yet crisp or brown. Place the fish on top of the potatoes and return the skillet to the 400-degree oven for another 10 minutes.


Serve with steamed asparagus or something else lovely and green.


I always intend to zest the lemon over the fish just before baking, but it never seems to happen. Nevertheless, this is a mild, lemony, healthy way to enjoy fish.



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Red Snapper Filet in Puff Pastry

I hadn’t had fish for at least two years before my mother suggested snapper for dinner this weekend. Apparently, I’m a crazy person. I love fish. I tend to worry when I’m here in Dallas that it won’t be fresh, and compared to the fish market back home it absolutely won’t be (According to Randy’s slogan, “If it were any fresher, you’d be swimming with it.”) That said, fish tends to be frozen the day it is caught, while still on the boat, and as long as it is frozen properly, will be perfectly safe and almost perfectly fresh anywhere you buy it. So maybe the whole not eating fish in Texas thing is just a bit of snobbery on my part that I need to get over. Honestly, I don’t know how long I can go without more of that sweet, flaky snapper.

Ingredients (serves more than you think. 4 on the safe side, easily 6)

1 package (17.3 oz.) puff pastry

Flour, for rolling

4 snapper filets, about 1/2 lb each

juice of 1 lemon (3-4 T), plus lemon wedges to serve

your choice of spices and herbs. I used salt, paprika (or was it cayenne?), a bit of dried thyme, and black pepper for everyone else’s (mustard powder for mine. What can I say? I love the stuff.)

1 egg yolk plus 1 T of water for egg wash


Pour the lemon juice over the fish and let it soak a bit while you get ready. You can leave the lemony fish in the fridge up to a day if you like. Thaw the puff pastry. Preheat the oven to 400°F Get out a little bowl of water. Cut each sheet of puff pastry in half, and roll them out until they will wrap comfortably around your filets. Place a filet in the middle of the rolled puff pastry, season as you like (I don’t say “to taste”, because I don’t think taking a bite of raw fish with seasoning will be particularly useful.) Wrap the filet in puff pastry and use a bit of water to seal the seams. Flip the fish seam side down onto a parchment lined baking sheet and repeat with the other filets.

Brush the tops only of the pastry packages with egg wash. You may want to prick the pastry with a fork a few times to let out steam–mine was a little too moist. Bake at 400°F for 20-25 minutes, until the puff pastry is golden brown. Serve before the pastry gets soggy.

Oh, that red rice I couldn’t eat? (Yes Mom, I’m going to pout about it. Just a little.) My mother’s a genius. She made about 2 cups of rice, mixed in a drained can of black beans (I got to eat that part), and added some jarred salsa and pineapple chunks. Apparently the plan was to layer the fish filets on top of this mix in a 9×9 pan, bake it together and serve like a casserole. This sounds perfectly fantastic to me, and if you aren’t allergic to tomatoes or want to replace the salsa with New Mexican chile sauce, I highly recommend it.

Now, I’m out of practice here. What’s your favorite way to make fish?

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