Saturday, January 17, 2009

Cornmeal-Crusted Tilapia

What a week. I've been wanting to post this recipe for days now, but I needed a weekend to finally get to it. I try not to work on weekends unless I absolutely have to. I will, however, do "fun work." I'll develop recipes because my husband is around to taste them (and we do have to eat). Sometimes I catch up on tedious work chores like making invoices and scanning contracts (This does not qualify as fun work--I loathe scanning). And I'll also blog, which happily does fall into the category of fun work.

Naturally, it's fun to tell people about a great recipe. When something is easy, healthy and really good, I can't ask for much more. I've recently come around to the idea of "crusting" things, although the word has kind of an unappealing ring to it. What else would you call it? It's not "breaded," and "coated" isn't evocative enough. "Crusting" on the other hand is rather descriptive and can apply to nuts, seeds, spices, breadcrumbs, cornmeal, anything.

I'd done some nut crusting in recent months, but I hadn't tried anything with cornmeal, an ingredient I always have and love to use in baking. I wanted to do something different with tilapia, as well. It's an inexpensive, readily available and agreeable fish, but it can be disappointing if you don't watch how you cook it. Crusting it in cornmeal and roasting it (and quickly running it under the broiler to get that nice deep browning on the crust) resulted in very moist fish with a crisp, sort-of-like-fried exterior. I know it all sounds basic, but I really like this preparation.

The topping is canned artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes quickly sauteed with some garlic and Limoncello. I really liked using the liqueur here, but since you're probably more likely to have white wine on hand, I wouldn't hesitate to make that substitution. Lastly, don't be intimidated by the crusting process. Yes, you have to get 3 plates/bowls dirty, but it's quick, easy and delivers a very tasty payoff.

Cornmeal-Crusted Tilapia with Lemon Artichoke Topping
As always, use stone ground, whole grain cornmeal. Medium grind provides a nice crunch, but a fine grind would probably be good in its own way. I would imagine that coarse grind would be a little hard on your teeth, but it's up to you. Other veggie toppings would be nice here, by the way--I considered grape tomatoes sauteed with garlic and scallions too.

Serves 2, but you can easily scale up as needed. The amounts of flour, egg and cornmeal you need for crusting are not precise.

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 egg
1/3 cup medium stone ground cornmeal
2 tilapia fillets
1 Tbs. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
6 artichoke hearts (from a 15-oz. can), drained and quartered
1/4 cup Limoncello or white wine
6 to 8 sun-dried tomatoes, patted dry and sliced
1 to 2 Tbs. lemon juice
Fresh chives or parsley for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 and coat a foil-lined baking sheet with cooking spray. Put the flour in a wide, shallow bowl, season liberally with salt and pepper and mix well. Beat egg in another bowl and put cornmeal in a third bowl. Dip a fish fillet in flour and shake off excess. Dip quickly in egg, then in cormeal, turning fillet to coat well; place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining fish. Bake 10 minutes or until nearly cooked through. Switch on broiler and cook until top crust of fillets is lightly browned and crisp in spots, and fish is cooked through.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook until it begins to color. Add artichokes and stir gently to heat. Add Limoncello and simmer until reduced by about three-quarters. Add sun-dried tomatoes and heat through. Season with a pinch of salt and black pepper. Remove from heat and toss with lemon juice to taste. Serve over fish. Garnish with fresh chives or parsley if desired.


Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Thanks for a good reminder to eat more tilapia!

Matt said...

I would never have thought to use Limoncello in a recipe the way I would use wine. What a great idea!

By the way, I've caught up on reading all of the pieces you've written for NPR. I'm so impressed! Are you ever thinking of writing a cookbook?

Katelyn said...

Oh goodness, this looks lovely!

BTW, I've shared the Flavor Bible that I won from one of your give awaays with a few friends/family members, and they have now each gone out to buy their own!

Mark Scarbrough said...

I too think limoncello is inspired. Brilliant. Plus, it gives me an excuse to go buy another bottle. I love it in the summer, but I need a little brightness now in the dead of winter.