Tilapia enjoys a happy coincidence, its sustainability accelerating smartly with its increased popularity. As ever more people appreciate the fish’s flavor and culinary versatility, the industry has discovered the freshwater creature adapts particularly well to farm production, ensuring the supply will match demand.
Today features two, or perhaps three, recipes from the January/February 2019 Cook’s Illustrated, Sautéed Tilapia with Cilantro Chimichurri, and Sautéed Mushrooms with Red Wine and Rosemary. This was the first time Cook’s Illustrated featured tilapia, and it’s also the fish’s inaugural appearance on these pages.
A light sear in a hot skillet is enough to brown the filets and to bring out their gentle nuttiness. That’s all it takes, actually, as tilapia’s mildness favors a simple approach. This is an ideal preparation for those who don’t particularly care for fish; for we who suffer no such prohibition, however, the fish goes beyond that, to divinity.
Besides, the chimichurri that tops the filets has flavor enough to spare. Those familiar with the Argentine sauce know of its wonderful ability to coax a sensory explosion from a few simple ingredients. This preparation takes just chopped cilantro and garlic, seasoned with oregano and vinegar, and bathed in good olive oil. This combination pulls the bashful fish on to the dance floor.
The mushrooms are a great way to enhance this celebration, particularly as they brought wine. The mushrooms are sautéed twice, first in butter, rosemary and shallots, and then in vinegar and red wine. The two-step process coats the caps with a thick, tasty glaze, and the wine and rosemary sound ethereal notes above the harmony.
Unlike many catches, tilapia is “sourced responsibly,” making it supremely sustainable. The prospect will lighten your conscience, while the taste delights the palate. A win on both counts, not a bad achievement for something raised in, effectively, a giant aquarium.
- 4 (5- to 6-ounce) tilapia filets
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- lemon wedges, for serving
Place the tilapia on a cutting board and sprinkle both sides with salt. Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Cut each filet in half lengthwise, using as a guide the seam that runs down the middle. This will result in two halves, one thick and the other thin.
Place a large skillet over a high flame and pour in the oil. When the oil just begins to smoke, add the thick tilapia halves. When the undersides are golden-brown, 2 to 3 minutes, flip the fish and continue cooking for another couple minutes, until the other side also is golden-brown. Transfer the fish to serving platter.
Return the skillet to the heat and, when the oil just begins to smoke again, add the thin fish halves. Cook for about one minute per side, until the fish is light brown.
Add fish to the serving platter and serve with lemon wedges.
- 2 tablespoons hot water
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley (*1)
- 1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup olive oil
In a small bowl combine the water, red wine vinegar and the rosemary. Let stand for 5 minutes.
Add the parsley, cilantro, garlic, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine.
Whisk in the olive oil until incorporated.
1 – I much prefer cilantro to parsley, as the latter is too bitter. As a result, I used double the cilantro (one cup) and none of the parsley.
Sautéed Mushrooms with Red Wine and Rosemary
- 1 and 1/2 pounds mushrooms (*2)
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 cup red wine
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
Place a skillet over a high flame and add the mushrooms and water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the water is nearly evaporated and the mushrooms begin to sizzle, about six minutes.
Reduce the flame to medium-high and add the vegetable oil to the mushrooms. Toss to coat. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are browned, about six minutes more. Reduce flame to medium.
Push mushrooms to the sides of the skillet, creating an exposed “well” in the center. Add the butter to the “well.” When it has melted, add the shallot, rosemary, salt and pepper. Stir constantly until aromatic, about 30 seconds.
Add the wine and the vinegar and stir into the mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Add the broth and cook, stirring occasionally, until the glaze is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.
2 – Use whatever type of mushroom that appeals to you and fits your budget; one kind, or a variety. I chose half a pound each of button mushrooms, cremini and shitake.
Naturally, the larger mushrooms will require some prep work, such as removing the stems from the shitakes and quartering the caps, or halving and even quartering some of the larger buttons and creminis.