Cotija Crusted Tilapia with Creamy Tomato Sauce

Magic.  Bippity Boppity Boo!

Magic. Bippity Boppity Boo!

True story: this dish is directly responsible for wooing my fiance.  It is actually capable of finding you a husband.  I cooked it on one of our first dates, and now there is a diamond on my finger.  Don’t see how you can argue with that.

Maybe we would have ended up together without this amazing meal, but it certainly isn’t guaranteed.  This is the kind of meal you should drop everything for, go to the store, and cook tomorrow.  It is also extremely quick to throw together, which is why it is on our regular weeknight dinner rotation.  During the summer, we eat this with a caprese salad and some grilled veggies.  This time of year, we had a mixed greens salad, and sometimes we also cook a pasta side dish.  Whatever you serve it with, it’s amazing.  And so, so easy.

In Minnesota, good seafood isn’t the easiest thing to find.  Especially at an affordable price.  Tilapia is one of the few types of fish they actually sell at every grocery store without being frozen.  The great thing about tilapia, is that it is very capable of being a vehicle for amazing flavors.  I am all about the mantra “layers of flavor”, which simply means that you don’t put anything in any part of a meal that doesn’t taste good.   So this fish has a fabulous crust and an amazing sauce.  So… yeah.  Go make it.  Like, right now.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pieces fresh (not frozen) tilapia
  • 1/2 cup grated cotija cheese
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • pinch black pepper
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, separated
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup crema mexicano or crema salvadoreno
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Dice the tomatoes and mince the garlic.  Heat 1 T olive oil in a small saucepan on medium/medium-high.  Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.  The pour the tomatoes into the pan and mix together with lemon juice, salt, and pepper.  Let cook down until extra liquid has steamed off, and tomatoes are cooked down.   It should have a fairly thick, mushy consistency.

Meanwhile, heat 2 T olive oil in a skillet on medium heat.  Get three shallow bowls.  In the first, put flour.  In the second, put one egg and scramble it well.  In the third, combine cotija, breadcrumbs, parsley, cayenne, paprika, and black pepper.  Once the pan is hot,  coat the fish in first flour, then egg, then the cotija mixture.  Press down in pan.  Cover pan, and cook until the outside is browned and crispy, then flip.  Keep the pan covered while cooking so that the inside of the fish cooks.  It is done when the crust is browned on each side and crispy, and the fish is flaky.

When the fish is done, finish the tomato sauce with the crema.  Stir well, so the sauce is all warm, but do not allow to simmer.  To plate, first put about half the sauce on each plate.  Then top with a piece of fish.  Serve immediately with the sides of your choosing.

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Yum, yum, yummy! 😀

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