Friday, December 23, 2011

Almond Crusted Tilapia

We had a bag of sliced almonds lying around after Clare made the Warm Cheese Tart with Cinnamon and Sliced Almonds. Looking to work a little creativity in the kitchen, I decided to use the leftover almonds as breading for a couple of fish fillets.

I first ground the almonds into "bread crumbs."  Then I consulted The Flavor Bible to decide what I could add to flavor the almond crumbs.  I decided on three additional flavors ... green cardamom, paprika and cayenne pepper.  All three flavors work well with almonds.

As I prepared the almonds, I realized that the texture of the ground almonds presented some issues when it came to breading.  The ground almonds tended to clump together, as if there was some moistness in the almonds.  I feared that this would present some difficulty when it came to cooking the fish.  I had planned on sauteing the fish in a pan with only a little oil; but I became concerned that the breading to come off of the fish.   I ultimately decided that, rather than sauteing the fish, I would increase the amount of oil and basically fry the fish.  The additional oil would cook the breading faster and help keep it bound together during the cooking process.  

I should note that the almonds created a rather thick breading, which was fine for both Clare and myself.  If you would like to lighten the breading, I would suggest adding a cup or two of flour in place of a cup or two of ground almonds. 

A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 2

2 Tilapia fillets
4 cups of sliced almonds, ground into powder
8 green cardamom pods, toasted and ground into powder
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon of paprika powder
Salt, to taste
Pepper to taste
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 to 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil

1.  Make the breading.  Put the ground almonds, ground cardamom, cayenne and paprika on a plate, salt and pepper to taste.  Mix all of the breading ingredients together. 

2.  Bread the Tilapia fillets.  Beat the egg in a bowl.  Dip the tilapia fillets in the egg and then in the breading mixture.  Let the tilapia fillets sit for five minutes or so before cooking them.

3.  Cook the Tilapia fillets.  Heat the oil on high heat.  When the oil begins to shimmer, reduce the heat to medium-high heat and place the fillets in the pan.  Cook for about four minutes and then flip.  Cook for about four minutes more or until the fillets are opaque and begin to flake.


Looking at this recipe, the pairing must take into account, not only the fish, but also the almond breading.  Given the richness and weight of the almond breading, a lighter wine or beer seems appropriate. Here are a couple of suggestions:

100% Riesling
Mosel Valley, Germany
Flavors of apples and bartlett pears

Pinot Noir
Corsica, France
Light body with strawberry and raspberry flavors

Pub Dog -- Hoppy Dog Pale Ale.
India Pale Ale
Gaithersburg, MD
Lighter than average hop flavor


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