Sunday, April 5, 2009
Antoine's by way of Oxpatch: Tilapia Meuniere
A number of completely unrelated factors led me to try something new in the kitchen last Friday evening. We've been staying true to the vow of meatless Lenten Fridays this year, and not without some effort. Certainly we are doing a lot better with it than with our resolution to quit swearing for Lent - but that's another story entirely. For us, this has meant seafood on Friday. (And yes, vegetarian friends, we realize that in your universe, fish is meat. Please bear with me.)
The chief problem with this plan is that decent seafood is pretty expensive in Oxford. There is an independent gourmet grocer on the other side of town, but most of their fresh fish is simply way out of our budget, even if our table has trended toward much smaller portions of meat than either Jessie and I grew up knowing. I would no more buy seafood at Wal-Mart than I would purposely listen to a Kenny G album. This leaves us with the K-Roger. Those who know me well understand that I generally dislike "Krogering" for a variety of reasons. Alas, they have a seafood counter of sorts, and it is in our price range.
Examining the contents of Kroger's seafood case is a little like viewing an exhibit on global aquaculture. Selections run the gambit from Mississippi catfish to Vietnamese shrimp. My loyalty to Louisiana means that Asian shrimp are simply out of the question. And no, I don't really feel like fixing salmon. Besides, for the last week I've had trout meuniere on the brain (this recipe from Brigsten's is a little more complex than what you will find below.) Or maybe something involving pompano. Yet by now, you will have guessed that the Oxford Kroger has neither of these in stock. My eye quickly settled instead on some small tilapia filets, of which four set me back a mere $5.15. A junk fish to many, my farm-raised tilapia have all of the class of a weekend trip to Dollywood. But who says you can't still have fun in Pigeon Forge?
I suddenly got excited about the prospect of turning this inexpensive meat, er, fish, into something special when we got home. The idea that I'd be able to blog the results, if they were successful, also appealed because many of our friends and readers of this blog can certainly appreciate saving a few bucks on dinner. But the traditional trout meuniere preparation found in my Galitoires or Antoine's cookbooks just wasn't going to cut it with our modest finned friends. Fortunately, with a few easy modifications, the tilapia made for a creditable stand-in for its more expensive cousin.
4 tilapia filets
panko bread crumbs
flour for breading
5 tablespoons of butter (sorry, this recipe is inexpensive, but not low fat.)
This goes together very quickly, so go ahead and get all of your ingredients together while your large skillet is warming up on a medium-high setting. Don't use super high heat or you will burn your butter, which you definitely do not want in this instance. (I know that some of the recipies, including that for Galitoire's meuniere butter, instruct you to carefully brown it. That's not what I did here.) For those who are unsure, this recipe is super easy.
Finely dice 1 small or 1/2 large shallot (about 2 tablespoons)
Extract juice from 1 lemon
Beat eggs for egg wash & put in a pan.
Set aside another pan for panko, and yet a third with flour. Season the flour with salt & white pepper
Bread the tilapia filets by washing in egg, then flour, then egg again, then panko
Put 3 of your 5 tablespoons of butter in the hot pan & melt. (I used my fancy non-stick Scanpan, but in retrospect, a cast-iron or other heavy conventional pan would be better as your sauce will be tastier if "bits" stick to the bottom.)
Brown the tilapia in the butter on both sides. For those of you who are new to this, make sure your pan is hot enough. The butter should be only the nearest edge of singeing. Do not flip until ready. Luckily, you should be able to see the panko start to brown around the bottom edges of the filet. When brown all around, flip carefully. Plate the filets when both sides have fully browned.
Add the remaining butter to your hot pan and whisk to speed up the melting. Once melted, add in your diced shallots. These will carmelize almost instantly - within 3 or 4 seconds - if diced finely enough. The contents of the pan should turn a pleasant brown color. At this point, deglaze the pan with the lemon juice and whisk to make sure all of those tasty bits are in your sauce. Pour this steaming goodness over your plated filets. Garnish with the diced parsley.
In the end, you will have tilapia meuniere for four modest or two hungry diners. Because everything else save the shallot and the lemon are likely in your pantry, the total grocery bill came in well under $8. (Okay, parsley and panko are staples in my kitchen, but maybe not yours.) With any luck, it'll allow you to keep both your Lenten and budgetary obligations.