For a long time I thought tilapia was some kind of garbage fish. People talked about it with derision most often reserved for the Fillet-O-Fish or other generic whitefish battered and deep fried. But tilapia might be one of the better values currently in your local market's sea food section. It's cheap, low on the food chain, and farm raised, which makes it affordable, low in mercury and sustainable. And as long as you buy from farms with good regulation and safety practices, you can be assured of getting good, firm fillets that will stand up to a nice pan sear. Bonus? It provides some of the same omega 3 fatty acids as its oilier, mercury filled cousins.
This past weekend I picked up a couple tilapia fillets and brought them home. With some shallots and bacon I was able to throw together a simple, easy fish course (with bacon) in about 30 minutes, including prep. And it was delicious.
- 8 strips of bacon
- 4 shallots
- 4 tilapia fillets
- 1/2 cup water or fish stock
- 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar (or more, to taste)
- 2 tsp honey (or more, to taste)
- kosher salt
Begin by heating a pan over medium heat. While the pan heats, coarsely chop the bacon and slice the shallots into discs about a quarter-inch thick. When the pan is heated, add the bacon, stir briefly and then let it sit for six minutes (or as directed on your bacon's packaging). Flip the pieces, and gently stir in the shallots. Let the mix cook an additional four minutes. Turn up the heat just a bit, and remove the bacon and shallots with a slotted spoon.
By the time you've got the bacon and shallots out of the pan, it should be hot enough for the fillets. Place them gently in the pan and sear on one side about two minutes. Flip, and sear on the other side an additional two minutes. Don't move them or mess with them or anything. You want constant, prolonged contact with the pan to get good caramelization.
Remove the fillets to plates, then add the stock to the pan to deglaze it. Add the honey and vinegar to bring some sweetness and acid to the sauce and reduce the hit to low for several minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary. Drizzle the sauce on the fillets, then top with a smattering of the bacon and shallots. Enjoy!
What to pair it with?
I'm a big fan of contrasting food with wine--With hot, salty food, I like a cold, sweet wine. With this dish, the fat from the bacon provides a wonderful, unctuous texture that's just begging to be cut by a crisp white wine, like a sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio.