There’s nothing like fried fish on the comfort-food list, especially on a brisk, autumn night! This evening, I made fresh tilapia, rubbed in stone-ground cornmeal and then fried. It’s one of our favorite go-to easy-peasy recipes. It takes less than 15 minutes to make, and I think you’ll like it!
As usual, start by assembling the ingredients. This includes a pound (roughly) of fresh tilapia fillets, stone-ground cornmeal (I used House of Autry), salt, and pepper. (Not shown: extra-virgin olive oil, butter [optional], parsley flakes, tarragon flakes.)
First, put a large sauté pan on the stovetop and turn the heat up to medium-high to high. Spoon a pile of that great cornmeal onto a dry cutting board or large surface. Whatever you choose, it should be large enough to turn the fillets over.
Make sure you coat both sides of each fillet.
Right about now, pour in three tablespoons of that olive oil and then, after a minute, if you choose, add a big tablespoon of butter. (Remember, add the oil first and then the butter to keep the butter from burning.)
Back to the tilapia. Sprinkle both sides with fresh-ground salt (I used sea salt) and pepper.
Now that the oil (and butter, if you’re using it) is nice and hot, add the fillets all at once to the sauté pan.
As you can see, it’s pretty crowded in there at the moment! (There was actually about 1.3 pounds of tilapia in our package, so yes, it was tight in the pan!) Cook over medium-high to high heat for 2.5 minutes, then turn onto the other side.
While the second side is cooking over medium-high to high heat (again, for 2.5 minutes), sprinkle the fillets with parsley and tarragon flakes. After that 2.5 minutes is up, plate and serve.
There are two things that are very important with this dish. First, the fillets need to cook until they’re nice and crispy (and you can see the crispiness here). Second, whatever sides you’re serving with the meal should be prepared first, with the fish done LAST. This is to ensure that you’re serving your tilapia fillets as HOT as they can be off the stove. This is an important element in Southern cooking — to serve fried fish hot. (Trust me, it’s much better that way!)
We served this tonight with steamed broccoli drizzled with butter and pasta tossed with parmesan cheese, along with a Virginia Gewürztraminer from Gray Ghost Vineyards. It was lovely!