mmm, parmesan crust

I have found that I love Parmesan crusted Tilapia, so have been on a quest to prepare the best at home. The first couple of times I tried it, the crust did not stick well, except of course, to the skillet. Major disappointment! Ah, research is a wonderful thing, whether it is on-line, in print, or my favorite, in a restaurant. I digress — research was needed. And it was fruitful. I discovered the secret to fabulous Parmesan crusted Tilapia (or most likely Parmesan crusted anything, which could be good, too!).

Here we go — first start three shallow bowls or pie plates — one for flour, one for egg whites and one for Parmesan. Begin with damp fish, then dredge in seasoned flour. Shake off the excess. Next step, dip the fish fillet into a well beaten egg white (it should be quite foamy) and allow the excess egg white to drip off. I added chives to the egg white for an additional flavor and a bit of color. Step three: dredge in Parmesan mixed with a bit of bread crumbs. Place the cheese coated fish fillets on a rack on a sheet pan and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Don’t skimp on the time here or the crust will not stick.

So, why is all of this dredging and dipping important? The gluten in the flour helps to stick the coating to the fish, along with the water and protein from the egg white. I like to add the bread crumbs to give a bit more crunch to the finished coating. And the resting time is crucial, to allow the layers to bond to each other and to the surface of the fish. If you try to cook it right away, the crust will peel off. Trust me. And, this is a great time to prepare some garlic mashed potatoes, some green beans or asparagus as a side, pour some wine. . . .

OK, back to the fish. Bring it out of the refrigerator about 10 minutes prior to cooking, so it has a chance to come to room temperature. Meanwhile, heat a sheet pan with a rack in a 200 °F oven. Heat olive oil in a NON-STICK skillet over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the fish fillets. Do not crowd them. You may have to cook them in batches. Cook until the cheese crust is lovely golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to the hot rack on a baking sheet, and keep warm while you finish cooking the rest of the fillets.

Parm crusted tilapia

So, now you have the method (above), here are the ingredients for your recipe:

4-8 tilapia fillets (about 1-1/2 pounds)

1/2 cup flour, seasoned well with salt and pepper

2 egg whites

1 tablespoon minced chives (optional)

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs, or panko

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 lemon, cut into wedges, for garnish

Buon apetito!

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