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Help an amateur with dinner tonight? Tilapia problems :)

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
I hope I haven't wandered into the wrong room, everyone here seems to have some pro chef cred.

I'm just a home cook who takes a lot of joy in presenting tasty & interesting dishes to my friends and family.

Anyway, on to my current dilemma, tonight's dinner. I try to base my menu on the fresh/produce ingredients I have, and build out from there. Tonight will be a loose Italian theme.

Portobello mushrooms => will marinate these in balsamic vinegar and grill

Peaches => will marinate these in something (open to suggestion), grill, and serve with ricotta cheese and greens

Vine-ripened tomatoes => will incorporate these into salad Caprese with some basil from my garden & mozz

Which brings me to the problem... the main course. I have tons of Tilapia filets in the freezer. It's not an ingredient that I am very enthusiastic about, and I am not sure if I can, or should, try to use it with tonight's meal.

I am open to any kind of suggestion for preparing the Tilapia to go along with my other menu items, or even a different direction like pan-seared chicken breast.
post #2 of 22
I love summer: the fresh produce is the star! :lips: Think of the portobello and salad as the "center of the plate" items, and the tilapia as a side dish! You'll have so much flavor and eye-appeal from those other two items (and the peaches), you can just do a very simple sauté of the fish --dip it in seasoned flour, or preferably in milk and then Wondra flour first for a pretty golden crust. Don't worry about saucing the fish -- the other stuff will be juicy and flavorful; maybe just some lemon wedges, but nothing elaborate.

This is what I often do when I have a less-than-thrilling protein.

And please, never worry about asking a question here :look: -- we have all levels of experience, and we're all here to help each other. Just wait until you realize that YOU can give advice, too. :D
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
post #3 of 22
Welcome to Chef Talk, DucatiWebDesign. At some point, please pop in at the Welcome Forum and introduce yourself.

Many of us are home cooks like yourself. We all benefit from sharing with the professionals here and with each other.

Tilapia is very bland. I'd recommend lightly flouring it, sauteeing it, then saucing with a boldly flavored sauce. I see you're already serving a Caprese salad, so you might not want to use a tomato-based sauce. How about a pesto, made with basil or arugala? A salsa verde would be nice, too.

I see Suzanne's post came up before mine could. We're thinking along the same lines I see. :D
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post #4 of 22
Thread Starter 
I wrote an intro message (forgot to mention that I am a shameful Iron Chef fan) with my favorite personal recipe:

Thanks for the suggestions and encouragment. I hadn't thought about flouring and sauteeing the Tilapia - that could work nicely. I've got some lemon thyme in the garden, maybe I could garnish with that, and add a little lemon/white wine reduction... salsa verde is great but I am short a few ingredients unfortunately.
post #5 of 22

I think I'd do...

Brush tilapia with a mix of olive oil, butter, s & p. Perhaps grill or bake it then serve with fresh lemon wedges, a nice pesto mayo (just mix pesto with equal parts of mayonaise) or pesto cream sauce.

I don't know why there have been so many disses on tilapia. It's a really nice flavored fish (certainly better than Catfish and people seem to love that!)

I know that your theme seems to be leaning on Italian, but it also blackens up great.

In Guatemala they're called Mojara and they would prepare them whole deep fried in peanut oil. (ala the fried turkey) WONDERFUL stuff!

April :lips:
post #6 of 22
I would forget about that dead fish if it was me. Go to Sonic and get some extra long chili cheese coneys..triple extra mustard and onywans with a side of tots and extry large chocolate malt. Everybody likes that kinda stuff. Some folks do not like talapias. They got zero flavor. If you want fish go catch some crappie. Roll in cornmeal and fry em in hot grease till they float. Just trying to cover all the bases here.

post #7 of 22

Tilapia Meuniere

We did a basic "Fish Meuniere with Brown Butter, Capers and Lemon" last week using tilapia, and it turned out just fine.

Season the fillets with salt and pepper, coat with flour, and shake off the excess. Put a tbsp of oil and a tbsp of butter in a non-stick skillet over high heat and after the butter stops foaming, reduce to medium high and saute the fish about 2 to 3 minutes on a side, moving only to turn so you get a nice crust. Move the fish to warm plates in the oven. Heat butter (about 2 tbsp for two fillets) in the pan, swirling until it turns golden brown, add 1 tbsp lemon juice and 1 tbsp rinsed capers. Pour over the plated fish and sprinkle with a bit of chopped parsley.

If you need to do more than two fillets, do them in batches so they don't crowd. You want them to crisp up, not steam.

Substitute slivered almonds for the capers, if you'd like.

We think this is just about the perfect sauce for tilapia, piquant enough to provide some interest and not too strong to overpower tilapia's mild flavors.
post #8 of 22
One of the best fish dishes I ever had was in Venice.
The fillet was dredged in flour, sprinkled with a little salt and pepper, and sautéed until just cooked.
The sauce was fresh,ripe, sweet, diced tomato; a few green olives; parsley; capers; a garlic clove or two; fresh basil and plenty of olive oil. Barely warmed through, it was just spectacular.

Simple is usually best!
post #9 of 22
Thread Starter 
Thanks everyone for taking the time to make suggestions and help me out. I used a little bit from everybody and the results were better than I expected. I hope in the future we just buy grouper and mahi-mahi when we want fish!

The real star of the show was the grilled peach! Wow, everyone loved them. I halved the peaches and marinated them in some pinot grigiot that was already open. I grilled them for a few minutes, and topped with a scoop of ricotta cheese. I reserved the wine marinade, which took on a peach color and flavor, and reduced it with some sugar, and drizzled over top of the ricotta.

post #10 of 22
My suggestion is to throw out the talapia next time, ugh what a horrible tasting dirt fish.
Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.
Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.
post #11 of 22
at the risk of stoking the fire, i am going to defend tilapia. Tilapia is tasty, has a good texture, is nutritious, and sustainable. It often gets dumped on because it is cheap; I am sure that if retail prices reached $20/lb, it would be more en vogue. It also sees a lot of press as a substitute, and spends a lot of time as junk food like fried fish strips. Tasty, but not many people put black cod or chilean sea bass in batter and fry it for lunch. Low profile=inferior? not in this case, IMO.

Fresh tilapia is one of the only whitefish with any concentration of flavor, it is certainly more flavorful than most marine whitefish and is rivaled by only some freshwater whitefish.

Defining whether or not "more" flavor is a good thing or a bad thing is subjective, but it definately has more flavor than red snapper (lutjanus sp.) or grouper(myctoperca sp.) for example - both are so mild that they barely have any flavor, both are primarily palette texture foods. So many oceanic whitefish are the same; super mild, super tender, and almost ethereal on the palette. All of those adjectives can be read as euphemisms for "bland."

As far as freshwater fish goes, usually the selection is regional and reflects what is available to fisherman or farmers; Catfish is probably the only freshwater fish available as a fresh product nationwide, in good quality, and many people dont like catfish on principal (mostly unfounded, but this is a "don't bash tilapia" thread not a "don't bash catfish" thread). Rainbow trout is another candidate, but the biggest producer (idaho) produces crummy trout compared to the boutique producers (like rushing waters in wisconsin) so quality varies greatly.

Tilapia's texture is good, more tender like snapper than firm like grouper, it's fat content much lower than it's closest flavor rival (Catfish) and it is cheap and readily available.

Tilapia can be raised in an environmentally friendly way, which is more than i can say for the way that tiger prawns are being raised in asia.

All things considered, tilapia is indeed a good choice as a substitute for many different whitefish, but i think that we will soon see recipes written as "almond crusted tilapia, use red snapper as a substitute" because tilapia is a tasty fish.

my qualifications are: I sold fresh fish and seafood for 7 years, worked as a sushi chef for 3, and have cooked and catered at a upper-middle rung restaurant for the last two. I'm a recreational fishing enthusiast, and sit on the board of directors of a reptile and amphibian conservation/advocacy group so I am very interested in sustainability and environmental policy. I'm not saying that i've seen every fish or every dish, but i'm reasonably certain that tilapia is a more flavorful fish in the realm of whitefishes. Certainly not like sardines, anchovies, mackerals, etc, but much more flavorful than true seabass, snappers, groupers, etc.

post #12 of 22
Dang Erik..very good defense of the lowly Talapia. Now you ever ate any fresh or stagnant water carp or gar? Wowser..for them who know the black art of how to cook it..will flat knock off your knickers so to speak. Heard it from many reliable sources if you get the fish sandwich from Mc'ds that is whut you is getting. Used to know some highway peteroleums from Cotulla, TX who used to knock out about 3 K per weekend catching them an selling to the fishstick plant anyway. Think they had to ice em down and haul em to San Antone or some other exotic locale. Either one make a person chunk rocks at Talapia or Salmon in my book. Just my dos centavos of course. Individual results might vary and you aint gonna find either spcies down at the fish mongers place most likely. Now seems like I heard Talapis is some kind of version of carp. Now is this right or wrong? Thanks.

post #13 of 22
I mean heck I'm a hopeless mess in the kitchen and they haven't run me out of town yet! :roll:
I'm a MAN, man!
I'm a MAN, man!
post #14 of 22

wouldnt surprise me if the filet o' fish at Mcd's is the sludge that drips from the back of the garbage truck.

I've had carp, buffalo and drums, all considered trash fish. I've never had gar but i have had all of the native sturgeons except lake. The jewish traditional dish "gefilte fish" usually brought a case of each into my store for the jewish holidays. None of them are really bad, all are very bony...i could see them not being popular because of that reason. a little filet knowledge or skill renders them just as boneless as any other filet though.

I think it is a perception thing; people THINK they are dirty...I don't know how many times i had heard customers say "ewww, catfish are bottom feeders" when nothing could be farther from the truth. Farm raised catfish eat floating food.

Tilapia are cichlids like the ones you might keep in your aquarium, native to africa. They have been introduced to lakes and impoundments in florida, texas, and much of the southeast, where they thrive. They look a little bit like an overgrown bluegill, and eat the same stuff that bass do.

post #15 of 22

Tilapia our common fish here in Pampanga Philippines

If your interested in cooking tilapia in a different kind of way..I may suggest a couple of ways in cooking Grilling it in our own special salsa, pls tell if your interested So I may send you a couple of cooking recipes. most exported tilapia comes from our country.... if your interested in eating tilapia in our traditional way of cooking...send me email at

just me
post #16 of 22
<<Tilapia can be raised in an environmentally friendly way, which is more than i can say for the way that tiger prawns are being raised in asia.>>

Only problem with talapia is that it is escaping into the Florida waterways and displacing other fish.
post #17 of 22
Thanks for your information. I've recently discovered tilapia sold live in a couple nearby Asian markets. Haven't tried buying the live fish yet but expect to shortly. Any advice on that?
just an old guy learning to live off his own cooking
just an old guy learning to live off his own cooking
post #18 of 22
Try this page:

post #19 of 22
yeah, displacement of native species is an issue, especially in the southeast where Tilapia thrive. There arent any really solid answers to introduced species right now, except maybe to only allow possession of animals where they are native, which is not likely to pass in the USA.

Some ethnic traditions release live fish as pitance, and in some cases exotic wildlife is released by people so that they have a source of it locally - non-native crayfish are wiping out EVERYTHING in arizona and new mexico, they most likely got there because they make good fish bait. It's a tough call.

Most closed-system fish farms have 0% escapee rate, so that's pretty good. As long as people aren't releasing them alive (which they are) they shouldn't show up in local waters.

as for buying the fish alive, scale, eviscerate and rinse well. After that you can fall into one of two camps; leave on the bone for 48 hours or so as to work through rigormortis, or filet immediately and prepare. I actually like my fish a couple of days old, it allows the flavor to develop. I think that fish fresh out of the water is almost flavorless (in many cases). make sure to ice it well at all times, except for exposed filets. NEVER put ice on flesh.

post #20 of 22
Hi! I have a recipe for Steamed Tilapia with Tau Cheo (preserved soya bean) which you can read at my blog : Hochiak! Delicious Asian Food

It's a simple chinese dish which my mum used to cook.
Visit my site on home-cooked Asian recipes!
Visit my site on home-cooked Asian recipes!
post #21 of 22
Saw your thread too late to help with your dinner party. I live two blocks from the Mississippi, and people will eat anything that comes out of that river. 'Course I'm in Minnesota, the lutefisk capital of the world, so that explains it. My friend actually batter fries sheephead, and it's pretty good. There is a recipe we use on all kinds of fish that is very good. You can put it on the grill, or bake in the oven. Ingedients can be tailored to you taste. Essentially it consists of chopped tomatoes, onion, zucchini, mushrooms and garlic with oregano and basil. Place a fish fillet on a square of aluminum foil and top with 1/2 C. tomato mixture. Fold sides over fish and crimp across center and ends to seal. Bake or grill 1/2 hour.
post #22 of 22

Tilapia Problems

While a bit off-topic, I am responding to those who insist on memorializing the myths that catfish are bottom-feeders or taste like mud. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I was born and raised in Indiana, and we caught and ate a lot of catfish, and never remember any catfish tasting muddy. I live in Arizona now, and still fish for cats in the Urban Lakes Program here.

For anyone who has never been taught how to fish, the old saying about war holds true here. Know your enemy! Catfish, unlike carp, cannot bottom-feed. When setting up your rig to catch cats, have the bait 14 to 18 inches off the bottom, as this is where cats like to take their meals.

Catfish's taste does depend a lot on their diet, but it should never taste like mud. If it does, there is something seriously wrong with that fish, throw it out and wash your mouth out with beer. About 4 cans should do it.

And always remember this prime rule: Friends don't let friends eat farm-raised fish! Blec-c-c-c-h-h-h-h-hhhh!
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