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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

walnut-crusted tilapia with lemon cream sauce

walnut tilapia dinner plate

This is a new recipe for me, and although there are a few technicalities I'll address next time I make it (not chopping the walnuts as fine, for one), it was absolutely delicious. Tilapia is my new favorite fish -- only $9 a pound, from WF, where they promise it is farmed in an eco-friendly and sustainable way, plus tender and incredibly mild and full of protein... So any dish I run across these days that calls for a mild white fish is getting swapped out for tilapia. The lemon cream sauce adds a tangy richness to the salty crispy fish; it's just perfect.

Grocery list: 4 tilapia filets, 1 cup walnuts, 1 cup breadcrumbs, parsley, 1 sprig rosemary, butter, 1.5 cups half-and-half, sour cream, 2 lemons.

lemon zest

First, make the lemon cream sauce. A little note about zesting lemons: if you don't have a microplane grater, you are missing out (about $12, one of the best kitchen tools ever). I went years thinking I had one but didn't -- turns out it was a paddle grater -- and zesting a lemon used to take about 20 minutes and a lot of swearing. Now it takes less than 1 minute. Anyway, continuing with the sauce: bring the half-and-half to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and reduce by about half. Add the zest of 2 lemons, and the juice of one of them, plus a few T of sour cream. Stir well, and remove from heat. Stir every now and then while cooking the fish.

toasted walnuts

Next, toast the walnuts over medium heat in a frying pan. When they start to glisten and make a tiny hissing sound, it's time to turn off the heat. Stir them several times; let them cool.

walnut crust

Making the crust in the food processor was very easy, but I'm going to describe it in the order I'll follow next time, not the order I went in last night. Last night, the crust ended up being too finely chopped, since I started with the walnuts and every time I added other ingredients they kept getting pulverized. Chop a handful of parsley leaves and the leaves of the rosemary (remove the stem). Add the walnuts. Remove the blade from the processor, then stir in salt, pepper, and 1 cup of breadcrumbs.

crusting the tilapia

To prepare the fish, preheat the oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil. Melt half a stick of butter. Coat each filet with butter, then press the walnut crumb mixture onto the outside. Don't shake off the excess -- in fact, do the opposite. Press as much of the walnut mix as you can onto the fish.

walnut tilapia pre-bake

When all 4 filets are on the baking sheet, take any remaining walnut mix and press a little extra onto the tops of each. If there's any remaining melted butter, you can drizzle that on top as well.

walnut crusted tilapia

Bake for 12 minutes, until the tilapia is flaky and white inside. Serve with a few spoonfuls of the lemon cream sauce. I also served this with the watercress apple salad and sweet potato fries.


Beana803 said...

I was making a variation of this recipe I found in a magazine. It called for Halibut, but my local store was out. So I jumped on the net and found your blog. All I have to say is GOOD GOD! This is better than a cookbook any day. I am so impressed with your ability to not only cook, but also explain your methods. I spent about an hour reading through the entire blog. I share your love for cooking, and you truely inspire me. I know it sounds silly, but it's the truth. Keep posting!

PS. My tilapia turned out great!

KT said...

Wow - you just made my day!! I am glad you like the style of it, I'm not a writer or photographer (obviously!) and I just tend to think of how I'd explain cooking something to my friends. It's a lot of fun for sure :)

That is great to hear that the tilapia worked for you. I love halibut, but I can't always afford $22/pound - so I sometimes will use tilapia (1/3 the cost). It's really great pan-fried or roasted, but it falls apart pretty easily on the grill though. Let me know if you find other good ways to try it, I'm always looking for new recipes!

Beana803 said...

Check out Parm. Crusted Tilapia on

This is a fab recipe that is really quick (which I'm sure you aren't concerned with), but the technique is a nice jumping off point for you. Good luck!