There is nothing good that comes of Tilapia. As a fish lover, I am convinced of this
Yet, even after you are fully convinced, there happens an event that, does not really alter your conviction, but pauses your thoughts just a a bit. Here is one such incidence and of which was born this recipe.
I was at my local grocery. And I saw Tilapia on sale. Whole Tilapias. Cleaned and ready to go. Each about a pound or more. Each at a dollar or slightly more. In spite of my apprehensions I picked up a couple. This was way too cheap to avoid. And plus, there is something about whole fishes that attracts me almost instinctively. Of course, once they were in my home and the initial wonderment was over, I had on my kitchen shelves two large 'unloved' fishes staring at me.
Luckily, I remembered Papillote. Every other mechanism I had tried has failed me as far as these darned fishes were concerned. Somehow I never ended up did a papillote with Tilapia. For those of you who are sneering at my casual use of a foreign word without explaining it (:) :), papillote is an excellent (french) way of baking whole (or filleted) fishes in pouches. A drizzle of oil, a few tomatoes a fresh lovely fish, a tightly sealed pouch and you get a Pappilote. It is one heck of a way to have a wholesome rustic meal without fanfare. Of course the original recipe demands a flavorful fish that can carry the recipe.
Tilapias unfortunately cannot be trusted to carry the recipe by itself. It needs a ton of help. I like to enlist garlic, jalapeno and lots of freshly ground peppercorn and black pepper. I have to say even the darned fishes tastes darned good :)
So here I have today, the recipe to making whole Tilapias the adapted way
2 whole fishes. Cleaned. Please ask your fish mongerer to scale it for you.
I mentioned Tilapia. But you can easily go with Trouts or any local equivalent. Fillets are good too. I like Swordfish. But I like whole fishes in papillotes. An amazingly homey way of making a rustic meal.
7-8 cloves of garlic. 3-4 for each. Slivered or sliced. No mincing here, please
2 Jalapeno. One for each.
Seeded or not, depending on your heat tolerance or acceptance. Sliced at an angle. You want to stuff these in little nooks of the fishes. So take that as a reference. I mean you are lookig at the fish..right? :)
3 tomatoes or 1 lb of cherry tomatoes. For whole tomatoes, cube em'. 1.5 per fish
1 tsp of pepper corn or 1/2 tsp of the ground varaity
1 tsp of black corn or 1/2 tsp of the ground varaity
A handful of cilantro. Optional. Chopped coarsely
3 tbsf olive oil
2 tsp of butter. One for each
Some freshly squeezed lime juice
Clean it, stuff it, wrap it, cook it!
Take Aluminum foil. Large enough to hold the fish, wrap it all over and seal the sides. Make it double layers. You don't want it to break when moving the pouch around. You would need two such to hold the two fishes. Dry the fish thoroughly with paper towels. Score the fish (carefully cut angular wedges on each surface of the fish, three to four of those. Helps with flavor and moisture penetration into the flesh. Also makes for better and faster cooking). Place the tomatoes around it. With a light hand, smear olive oil on all surfaces and insides. Now ground up the spices and mix with salt. And liberally apply it all over the fish and every little score and insides. Stuff the jalapeno, garlic and cilantro into the fishes and stick some in the inside the scores as well. A slab of butter on top. Carefully, wrap the fish and seal all around. The whole thing should look like a pouch. Do the same thing with the second one. Poke the top surface with fork to allow circulation. Place on oven friendly trays.
Heat the oven to 425 F. Now place the fish and bake for 30 mins. Reduce temperature to 350F and finish baking. Another 20-25 mins. The time of course depends on how big your fish is, if you are using fillets and your oven. For fillets I would say go with 20-20. Now, if you like the fish to be brown on the top (I like it by the way), carefully take out the try and open the pouch. Teh aroma should hit you 'wow'. Anyways, broil the open fishes on hi for 7-10 min. Drizzle some fresh lime juice.
Have immediately. I mean you should be going crazy to have it by now. I would say pair with just the boiled potatoes or garden salad on the side. A Riesling would work wonder with this. But I am a red fanatic. I would go with some Bordeaux. But that is just me :)
Happy eating and healthy living.