Feeding seafood to my kids is a battle that I rarely win. They shudder at the sight of a shrimp, cry when confronted with crab, and gag when googled by a grouper. OK, they don’t exactly gag (much), and groupers don’t google (to my knowledge), but you know what I’m getting at. It’s hard to get my girls to eat anything that once swam in open water.
Just because my kids don’t like something doesn’t mean we don’t occasionally have it for dinner. I am a big believer in “changing taste buds”. What your child may hate one day, may be his favorite the next. It’s always worth a shot!
Enter, this tilapia dish. I saw this in a Cuisine at Home magazine and thought it looked simple enough, delicious enough, not too unhealthy, and (most importantly) I thought I could fake my kids out with it and tell them it was chicken. They are pretty smart kids, so I knew they’d figure it out eventually, but if I could just get one bite in, and get them to admit to liking it before the “OH MY GOSH, IT’S FISH!” proclamation occurred at the table, I’d be a happy mama.
First things first. Dad was home early, so I asked him to keep the girls busy with a board game while I made dinner. If they didn’t see me cooking, the fake out might just work.
Step two, I got my veggies ready. This crispy fish cooks on a bed of fresh green pepper, tomato, minced garlic, and sliced leeks. Leeks are grown in sand, so they can often be very sandy. Anytime I cook with a leek, I slice it up, and then put it in a bowl of water. The slices stay at the top, the sand falls to the bottom.
I drained the leeks, patted them dry with paper towel, and then tossed them with the tomatoes, garlic, green pepper and a bit of olive oil. Then, I spread them out on a cookie sheet that I’d lined with tin foil and sprayed with nonstick spray.
Once the veggies were set, I prepped the fish. You can use any flat, white fish for this. In fact, the original recipe called for Red Snapper. I couldn’t find snapper, so I went with Tilapia. Plus, I figured Tilapia was about as mild as I could get, fish wise.
First, I salted and peppered each fillet.
I laid the Tilapia fillets on top of the veggie bed, and then made a quick crispy coating by stirring together some panko bread crumbs, grated Parmesan cheese, crushed potato chips, paprika, cayenne pepper, and a dab of melted butter.
I mixed all of that up well, and then patted it onto each fillet, making sure each piece of fish had a thick, even coating.
Then, it was ready to pop in the oven!
(And the kids still didn’t know! Mwa ha ha!!)
I was assured by the good folks at Cuisine that the veggies on the bottom would steam the fish, and the crumb topping would crisp up nicely, but keep the fish from drying out. That’s exactly what happened. After about 15 minutes in the oven, though, I noticed that the topping was browning up and just on the verge of burning. At that point, I covered the fish with a piece of aluminum foil for the remainder of the 20 minute cooking time.
Anyway…twenty minutes later, I pulled the fish from the oven. It was perfectly flaky and ready to serve!
Aaron and the kids returned to the kitchen, which (thankfully) didn’t smell like fish at all. They asked me what kind of chicken it was, I told them it was coated in potato chips (score!). I served it up.
They looked at it.
Emily said, “It’s fish.”
I begged them to try it. They did. THEY LIVED. They even said it “wasn’t bad”. They ate most of what was on their plate.
The grownups at the table really enjoyed it. The fish was perfectly flaky, and the coating was nice and crispy crunchy. The vegetables cooked up into a flavorful relish to serve alongside the fish. It was light, and delicious! It’s definitely going to make another appearance on our table, and I won’t have to hide it from the kids.
CRISPY TILAPIA WITH TOMATOES AND LEEKS
Adapted from Cuisine at Home
- 1 cup seeded, diced tomato
- 1 cup thinly sliced leeks, washed
- 1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
- 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 4 tilapia fillets, skinned (or red snapper, flounder, or another flat fish)
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- 1/2 cup crushed plain potato chips
- 1/2 tsp. paprika
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 2 Tbsp. butter, melted
- lemon wedges for serving
- Preheat the oven to 450* F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray it with nonstick spray.
- Combine the tomatoes, leeks, green pepper, garlic and olive oil in a bowl. Toss to combine. Spread the mixture onto the baking sheet.
- Season the tilapia with salt and pepper. Place the fish on top of the tomato mixture.
- In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, crushed potato chips, paprika, cayenne pepper, and melted butter.
- Divide the mixture among the fillets, pressing the crumbs onto the top of each piece of fish.
- Bake the fish until it flakes easily and the top is golden, about 20 minutes. (Cover with foil during cooking time if topping browns too quickly.)
- Serve fish with the vegetables as a relish.
- Garnish with lemon slices.