One of our 2015 food resolutions is to add more fish to our diets and the season of Lent gives us the perfect opportunity to cast a wider net into the world of fish. Today’s catch is Blackened Tilapia with Mustard Creole Sauce.
Tony chose to feature tilapia for several reasons. First, it’s new to his repertoire, which is typically focused on ocean fish like sea bass, grouper, and shellfish, or freshwater fish like walleye and salmon. Next, it’s affordable and widely available in our local markets and superstores, typically priced around three dollars per fillet.
Mild, sweet and flaky, tilapia has the perfect taste and texture for this preparation and is firm enough to withstand being blackened, unlike sole or walleye, which are more delicate and may not hold up as well. Grouper, cod, catfish, or any mild, firm white fish will also work for this recipe.
Tony uses a simple blackening process which begins by coating the top of each fillet with a dry Creole seasoning rub, and then searing each piece, top-side-down, in a hot pan for one or two minutes until blackened. Tony prefers his fish lightly blackened and only slightly spicy, so our recipe is created from his point of view, but you can adjust the level of blackening and spice as desired. To finish, the fish is baked top-side-up in a 400-degree oven for eight to ten minutes, until opaque and flaky inside.
Having just indulged in a Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras meal at Sarello’s last week, we’ve been inspired by the exotic world of New Orleans cuisine and have paired today’s blackened tilapia with a savory Mustard Creole sauce. This sauce is big on flavor and perfect with blackened white fish, but would be just as good with beef, chicken or pork.
The sauce can be made up to a week in advance and refrigerated, then re-heated on the stove or in the microwave until hot. The recipe calls for two teaspoons of Creole seasoning and we typically use the same spice mix that we used to blacken the fish. We’ve included the recipe for our Creole seasoning dry rub, but at home I’ve often used a store-bought version with great results.
Other ingredients in the sauce include sliced yellow onion and red bell pepper, white wine, chicken stock, whole grain mustard, olive oil and heavy cream, which serves as the thickening agent for the sauce. The sauce is pureed, so the vegetables do not require special knife skills – a basic slice or rough chop will do.
The vegetables are sautéed with the olive oil and Creole seasoning until softened, then add the white wine and cook for five to seven minutes until the liquid is reduced by half. The cream, stock and heavy cream are added next, and the sauce continues to cook for ten to fifteen minutes until the onion and pepper are soft and fully cooked.
We use a handheld immersion blender to puree the sauce, which should appear smooth and velvety when ready, and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If it seems too thin, continue cooking over medium-low heat for another ten minutes.
To serve, we fill each plate or serving platter with the mustard Creole sauce and then top with the blackened tilapia. Pair this dish with a simple salad or a light pasta dish and you have the perfect Lenten dinner.
CLICK HERE for Blackened Tilapia & Creole Dry Rub RECIPES
CLICK HERE for Mustard Creole Sauce RECIPE