Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Diversifying the cooking portfolio

Good evening everyone! We're no strangers to tilapia on the blog. The diverse little fish has been dressed up multiple ways and cooked in multiple formats over the past year and a half. In fact, we could do a spin off blog called 'Cooking With Tilapia' and have enough material to easily cover a year. With a neutral flavor, a lost cost of entry and a fairly durable construction (can take multiple forms of cooking well) tilapia is the at home chef's best friend when it comes to fish. Forget tuna, tilapia is the real chicken of the sea! Tonight, we're blending tilapia with a new spice and creating a simply 3 part pan glaze. Does simple translate to delicious? Let's find out.

The Recipe: Five-Spice Tilapia For Two
Original Recipe Found On:

What You'll Need

2 X 8 Ounce Tilapia Fillets
1/2 Teaspoon Chinese Five Spice Powder*
2 Tablespoons Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon Plus 1 1/2 Teaspoons Light Brown Sugar
1 1/2 Teaspoons Canola Oil
2 Scallions (Thinly sliced)

* We touched on five spice powder in last week's blog. If you missed it, read the all about it HERE.

I've cooked multiple fish recipes the same way that we're cooking this tilapia tonight and I've learned a few critical things along the way. Surprisingly, none of these tips are mentioned in the Eatingwell variation of the recipe, so I'm going to add them in with the original recipe to help those of you following along at home.

First, dry off the tilapia fillets with a paper towel. This is the key to the entire recipe. You tilapia must be completely thawed and then thoroughly patted dry or nothing you try to do in the later stages will work. Make sure your tilapia has no excess moisture on the surface before you move on to the next steps.

Next, sprinkle both sides of the tilapia fillets with the five spice powder. I've found that lightly rubbing the spices into the fillet greatly aids in fusing the spice with the fillet. If you're not careful, a simple sprinkle could actually fall right off once the fish hits the oil.

In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce and brown sugar. Mix lightly until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a medium non-stick skillet over medium high heat until the oil begins to shimmer slightly. Place the tilapia in the skillet and cook until the outer edges become opaque - roughly 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and flip the fillets. Add the soy sauce / brown sugar mixture to the skillet and bring the mixture to a light simmer. Cook the tilapia fillets until they are cooked through (white and flaky in the center - poke them with a fork to verify) and until the sauce thickens slightly. Finally, add the scallions and along them to simmer for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove from heat, serve the fish with the pan glaze and enjoy!

The Results:

You would assume that the final dish would be a little sweet. Cinnamon is one of the main ingredients of five spice powder and brown sugar is the main component in the glaze. However, what you end up with is an almost smokey flavor. It's amazing how sweet ingredients blend to make a smokey kick! When paired with the tangy kick of soy sauce and the bite of scallions - this glaze turns into a very unique flavor creation. It has hints of Asian inspiration, which lends itself well to tilapia's perfect neutral flavor.

One of my favorite pan sauce styles to make is brown sugar based pan sauce. It's a durable sugar that can take some heat and overcooking (unlike pure white sugar) and it adds a great layer of complexity to any dish you throw it in with. Anytime I can create a simple pan sauce with this much flavor, I'm happy with the outcome. Although because there is such an such a small amount of the sauce, it's more of a glaze - either way, it's tasty.

All in all, this simple dish is a solid twist on tilapia. With great flavors, low prep time and very few ingredients, this recipe should help you diversify your cooking portfolio and add a little Asian inspiration to repertoire. Give this one a try if you like Asian cuisine or are a fan of tilapia.

That's all we have for you this evening. Maggie is taking over the kitchen on Thursday night with a brand new dish. Be sure to stop in to see what she's cooking. Until then,


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