Friday, March 15, 2013

Spicy Pecan-Crusted Fish (Baked, Not Fried)

Spicy Pecan-Crusted Tilapia (with roasted radishes & sauteed radish tops)
Here is a low-carb, healthier alternative to breaded fried fish, with a pleasant nutty crunch and a nice spicy kick. I used tilapia fillets but any similar fish will work, e.g., sole, catfish, flounder, cod, walleye, etc.

If habanero powder is too spicy for you, substitute cayenne or red pepper powder, or even ground chipotle powder or ancho chile powder for an earthier, less fiery flavor.

This recipe takes only a few minutes to assemble and no more than 15 minutes to cook in the oven. If you insist on pan-frying rather than baking the fish, use about 2 Tbs butter or oil (or 1 Tbs each) over medium-high heat and fry on each side until golden-brown and fork-flaky, about 3 to 4 minutes per side depending on the thickness of your fish fillets. Your skillet should be large enough to fry all 4 fillets simultaneously -- if not, you can fry in batches and hold the fried fillets in a warm (200°F) oven until all are done.

Depending on how hungry everyone is and how much other food you're serving, plan on 1 or 2 fillets per person -- and you can multiply this recipe for more (or bigger) servings.

4 tilapia or other fish fillets, approx 3-4 oz each
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans*
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp smoked paprika or regular paprika
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
pinch (or to taste) habanero powder (or other ground chili pepper)
Oil or cooking spray

*Place pecan halves or pieces in a resealable plastic bag, squeeze out all the air, seal and then use a rolling pin to crush into very small pieces. Or, you can pulse in a food processor, but be very careful not to over-process or you'll end up with ground pecans or pecan butter (neither of which is a bad thing, but they're not the right thing for this recipe).

Preheat oven to 400°F and very lightly oil (or spray with cooking oil) a baking sheet. Stir together the chopped pecans, spices, salt & pepper in a small bowl until thoroughly combined, then spread on a shallow plate. Dip each fillet in the beaten egg, then press into the pecan mixture to coat both sides well. Place each pecan-coated fillet on the oiled baking sheet and bake at 400°F until golden-brown and the fish flakes easily with a fork, about 10 to 15 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillets. Serve with lemon wedges, or your favorite cocktail sauce or tartar sauce.

Makes 2 to 4 servings.

Zestfully yours,

PS: If you enjoy spicy foods and want an alternative to humdrum, everyday cocktail sauce, try Historic Lynchburg Tennessee Whiskey Jalapeno Seafood Cocktail Sauce, a grown-up take on cocktail sauce that's spiced with red ripe jalapeno peppers and spiked with a splash of real Jack Daniels Black Label Whiskey.

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