March 17, 2010

Just an average piece of fish

I don't eat much fish. But amidst a flurry of motivation to include more healthy stuff in my diet, while eliminating unhealthy stuff from my lifestyle), and in keeping with recent attempts to learn how to cook, I found a frozen tilapia filet at Martin's for $1.00 and decided to cook it.

The internet is full of useful and useless recipes. Not having much of a natural gauge (as yet) on what cooking tips are practical and impractical, I googled "Easy Tilapia Recipes" and did my best to condense them into one average method of cooking a piece of fish in a hot oven. This may not work with all things. Apparently, as you will see, it works alright with fish. Other things - like, say, how to cook a pastry, might not work so well. I wouldn't debate the tastiness of a hodgepodge average pastry, but it probably wouldn't be easy or marketable. Apparently, though, you can average the sum of all tilapia recipes into a passable fish-dish.

The internet seems to agree that if you're going to bake a piece of fish, you'd better do it above 350 degrees. And you had better do it for several minutes. In my limited experience with baking chicken (three attempts, all of which produced edible but rubbery results) you have to cook it for 30-40 minutes. For a single chicken breast. In those 30-40 minutes, you have plenty of time to debate just how worthwhile it is to devote so much time to a mediocre piece of chicken, decide against it, and drive to a place that will fry it and put it on a bun for you relatively cheaply. This is a debate I am prone to lose. This is where fish has an edge. A narrow tilapia filet - again, the internet agrees with this - can be baked in 10-15 minutes. This does not leave a lot of time for second guessing and debate.

Fish does not, however, have an edge in the category of fishiness. Tilapia, fortunately, is not a particularly fishy fish. No, wait... by that I mean to say that it doesn't have a terribly strong fish flavor. In my cursory tilapia research, it seems consensus that tilapia is a blank canvas of a fish, one with which a chef can show off a complementary sauce. I, however, am not a chef, and thusly am not into sauces that do not come in cans that say PREGO on the side. So I'm not about to flex my anemic culinary muscles.

So I went to Meijer and bought some lemon-pepper seasoning. This made the situation disappointingly easy, and therefore difficult to exaggerate into a witty blog post. To prep the fish, all I did was put down a piece of foil, rinsed the fish (and patted it dry because the internet said to), seasoned it and threw a few lemon slices and a pat of butter on it. I put it in the oven for 12 minutes - again, the law of averages. When it was done, I put it on a plate with some steamed rice and veggies, the kind that comes in a bag that you never have to open, just put in the microwave for five minutes. I think this is how the pioneers did it.

And the finished product (picture way down below): A surprisingly attractive, average piece of fish.

It actually tasted pretty good. This is somewhat of a disappointment because the whole point of me blogging about cooking is to be self-deprecating. And when something like this happens - I produce a plate of well-seasoned, juicy, healthy fish - it's not the car-accident that makes for good blogging. So, my apologies, but the fish was pretty durn good.

Scouring the interwebs for fish-cooking advice.

My extensive spice rack. That's right, Kosher salt. You may recognize the Drake's from my chicken-frying disaster. It has not been used since.

375 degrees. Also, that's a Whirlpool.

The setup.

Healthy stuff. For a buck.

I find that the healthier the food is, the more difficult it is to open.


Slightly less sushi-like.

Not sushi. Sorry for the obstructing oven rack. No, actually, I'm not sorry.

Finished product.