Introduction: PAN FRIED TILAPIA STUFFED WITH FRESH CHIVES, ONIONS & PEPPERS
It has been almost 30 years since I spent a wonderful week in Barbados but I have never forgotten the day that I sailed the Caribbean aboard a 60 foot Catamaran and enjoyed a fabulous luncheon served aboard the boat while it was anchored in a beautiful, tranquil, cove just off the beach.
The featured dish was a local favorite; Spicy filleted Flying Fish stuffed with capers, onions, & peppers. I can't remember now whether the fish was steamed or fried that day, although I believe the Bajan's usually steam their Flying Fish and serve it with a side of Pigeon Peas and Rice.
I tried to duplicate that dish today, but since I cannot buy fresh Flying Fish I chose Tilapia (actually.I would have preferred some thin fillets of wild-caught local Spotted Sea Trout or Yellowtail Snapper, or even some northern Flounder, but all I could get today was Tilapia)! In any case, the recipe that I created follows, and I chose to fry the fish instead of steaming it.
Step 1: INGREDIENTS (1 Serving)
- 1 Fish Fillet per person (6 to 8 oz fillet per person)
- 2 TBS finely diced Onion (Red, Yellow, White - your choice)
- 2 TBS finely diced Green Bell Pepper (Red and or Yellow will work just as well)
- Old Bay Blackened Seasoning
- 1 teaspoon fresh Chives, finely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon each dried thyme, smoked paprika, garlic powder, black pepper & a dash of Kosher Diamond Crystal Salt
- A few leaves Fresh Basil
- A few drops of freshly squeezed Lime Juice
- 1 Large Egg, beaten
- About 1 cup Seasoned Bread Crumbs (Panko, Italian, Wheat - your call)
- 3 TBS Bertolli Extra Light Olive Oi
Step 2: PREPARE THE FISH
- Place the fillets on a cutting board thickest side up and carefully *cut a pocket into the thickest half of the fillets (if you have two thick fillets, you can cut a pocket into each side).
- Dust the fillets inside and out with Old Bay Blackened Seasoning (if you do not like blackened spice, just use Old Bay Seafood Seasoning).
- Set fish aside while you prepare the stuffing.
*NOTE: Flying Fish fillets are fairly thin and it would probably not be possible to cut a pocket in one. The "stuffing" for Flying Fish is usually spread on top of a thin fillet, then the fillet is rolled and steamed or fried.
Step 3: PREPARE THE STUFFING AND STUFF THE FILLETS
- Place 2 TBS each finely diced raw onion and bell pepper.
- Add 1 teaspoon finely diced fresh Chives
- Add a dash of Kosher Diamond Crystal Salt
- Add a squeeze of fresh Lime Juice
- Stir it all together
- Stuff as much as you can into the pockets you have cut into the fish fillets, then top 1/2 of a fillet with more stuffing.
- Fold the 2nd half of the fillet over the 1st half (covering the stuffing placed on top of the 1st half) and pin the two halves together with toothpicks or wooden skewers.
- Wrap the stuffed fillets in wax paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before cooking.
- This is a good time to prepare any side dishes that you might like to serve along with your stuffed fish since it will only take about 10 to 15 minutes to cook the fish once you remove it from the refrigerator.
- The above recipe created more stuffing than I could fit into one small fillet, however, I used the left over mixture of onions, peppers, & chives in a side dish of Pigeon Peas that I was also preparing to accompany my dinner.l
Step 4: FRY THE FISH
- Place the 3 TBS of cooking oil in a non-stick skillet and preheat over medium to medium-low heat (you will have to cook the fish fillets very gently to cook them through while avoiding burning them).
- Beat the egg in a bowl and place the bread crumbs in a separate dish.
- Dip the fish fillets into the egg, then into the bread crumbs, gently turn them over, coating all sides as you rotate them. (I actually double-coated these and that worked fine).
- Place the coated fillets into the hot oil and allow them to cook and brown slowly on each side (about 3 or 4 minutes per side). If you cook them to fast, the breadcrumb/egg mixture will brown before the fish is thoroughly cooked).
- NOTE: As previously mentioned, Flying Fish fillets are fairly thin and when stuffed and steamed or fried they cook rather quickly. You have to be careful when preparing a thicker fillet for frying in this manner because the breadcrumb coating may burn before the fish is cooked through, especially if it you attempt to fry it over high heat.
Step 5: TIME TO EAT . . .
Pan-fried Tilapia stuffed with fresh Chives, Peppers & Onions served with a side of well-seasoned Pigeon Peas and a chilled glass of Barefoot's California Riesling Wine!!!
(I was afraid the Tilapia fillet might have been too thick to cook in this manner, but the double coating of breadcrumbs sealed the stuffed fillet and the fish cooked in it's own juices. The end result was a tender, juicy, fish fillet with a crispy, brown, coating).
Step 6: NUTRITION
I have calculated the nutritional value of this recipe to the best of my ability using the MyFitnessPal Recipe Analyzer. Click on the image to enlarge it.
(I did not realize how much sodium was contained in the breadcrumbs that I used in this recipe. In the future I will either use low-sodium Panko breadcrumbs, or Sodium-free Whole Wheat breadcrumbs. The Progresso Italian-Style Bread Crumbs that I used have an estimated 450 mg's of sodium per 1/2 cup. Although I placed 1 full cup of bread crumbs in the dish used to coat the Talapia, I estimate that the residual amount that was actually used after double-coating the fillet was approximately 1/2 cup).