Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Post-Exam Meal

Saturday night I finished a pretty big take-home exam.  It was closed-book, which I think is just mean...but anyway, I survived it!  After a week of studying, my fridge was getting kind of empty.  Now empty is definitely a relative term.  I've seen some very empty fridges.  And mine always has something in it.  But on Sunday, nothing looked good to make into dinner.  Of course, this meant I had to look through all of the ads for nearby grocery stores to see who had the best deals.  And Harris Teeter had tilapia on sale!  I love tilapia - it isn't too "fishy," it's always cheap, and it's easy to cook.  I looked through my recipes and found one that sounded amazing - Parmesan Crusted Tilapia with Tomato-Basil Cream Sauce.  I found the recipe at Life's Ambrosia, one of the blogs I read regularly.  Des said she served it with mashed potatoes, so I decided why not - I'll try two of her recipes!
I made a few changes, but mostly because of what I happened to have, and because of the time of year.  For the fish - I used frozen cubes of basil instead of fresh, half-and-half instead of cream, plus I doubled the amount of fish, tomatoes and garlic but left everything else was fine.  It worked out perfectly.  I bought a pound of fish - 4 fillets.  Which means I have dinner for almost the entire week.  It's holding up pretty well, too.  I think next time I would use less oil for the sauce, or maybe use butter instead?  I don't think my cream liked mixing with the oil.  The sauce is delicious - I think it would make a great pasta sauce as well, maybe with some shrimp?  The tomatoes are perfect in it - they're little bursts of sweetness throughout the sauce.  This would be even better with fresh basil, over the summer.

For the mashed potatoes - I used 1/4 cup instead of 1/2 cup of half-and-half.  And I used kerrygold butter.  I was expecting the butter to turn it into something extraordinary, but I don't think I could tell a difference between that and the regular old stuff.  After the first night, I decided it needed a little extra something, so I added more s&p, and grated some aged white cheddar on top (leftover from my mac n cheese).  I was really excited to make the mashed potatoes, since I had just bought a potato masher from The Happy Cook!  It's cute, and fun to use.

Parmesan Crusted Tilapia with Tomato-Basil Cream Sauce (adapted from Life's Ambrosia)
6 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
30 grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup half-and-half
2 cubes (2 tsp) frozen chopped basil
4 tilapia fillets (1 lb)
kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp granulated garlic


Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes.  Add grape tomatoes and basil and cook for 10 minutes, until the tomatoes have released their juices.  Reduce heat to medium low and add half-and-half.  Let simmer for 15 minutes (or as long as you need to get everything ready).

Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a skillet large enough to fit two fillets.
Rinse and pat dry the tilapia fillets.
Combine the flour, salt and pepper in a flat dish.
Put the beaten egg in another flat dish.
Combine the parmesan, panko and garlic in a third flat dish.
Dredge the fillets in the seasoned flour.  Shake off excess.  Dip in egg.  Press into parmesan/panko mixture.
Place in heated skillet, two at a time, and cook 3-4 minutes per side.  (Thicker pieces may take longer to fully cook.)  Fish will be golden brown and will flake easily when done.
Add another 2 tbsp to the skillet, and repeat with the remaining 2 fillets.
Lay fish on a serving platter and spoon sauce over the top.

Creamy Mashed Potatoes (adapted from Life's Ambrosia)
2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks (I left the peel on mine, it's up to you)
3 tbsp butter
1/4 cup half-and-half
salt and pepper to taste
Any extras - I added some white cheddar cheese

In a large saucepan, add enough water to cover the potatoes.  Boil until they are fork tender.  Warning - the water tends to get really foamy and attempts to boil over.  When they are soft, drain the water and put them back in the pot.  Add the butter, half-and-half, salt and pepper, and mash until light and fluffy.  Add your desired extras, and fold in.
(Picture with my extra cheese on top!)

No comments: