It is really disappointing when you receive your meal at a restaurant and it barely resembles the mouth watering description you read on the menu. I recently went out with friends to celebrate a bachelorette weekend. Before a fabulous night at the local dueling piano bar we stopped for a nice dinner at a nearby restaurant. The minute my eyes settled on the pistachio crusted grouper with Moroccan cous cous (with artichokes) and asparagus I was sold. I love nut crusted fish and artichokes and asparagus. It’s like the chef knew I was coming.
Then I got my plate. The asparagus consisted of maybe two stalks cut on the bias, over-cooked, and sprinkled over the fish. The cous cous, while flavorful, didn’t taste much different than the flavor packet that comes in the instant Near East cous cous. And the artichokes? Two leaves mixed into the cous cous. There was still hope for the fish. It certainly looked promising. The first taste revealed otherwise. The fish was bland, and the “crust” was soft and mushy, like it had spent 5 minutes too many under the heat lamp.
I am amazed that such a basic dish was so poorly made. Nut crusted fish isn’t hard, not at all! The method is the same whether you use pistachios, almonds, or any other nut. Here, let me show you.
Hazelnut Crusted Tilapia
2 tilapia fillets
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
Juice from half a lemon (about 1.5 tablespoons)
.75 cup shelled hazelnuts
.5 cup panko bread crumbs
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
Garlic powder, about 1 teaspoon
Salt and pepper
1) In an oven preheated to 350°F, roast hazelnuts for 8-10 minutes, using a clean towel rub off the skins from the hazelnuts. Set aside to cool for several minutes.
2) Whisk lemon juice and mayo together in a small bowl. Add garlic, and salt and pepper as suits your tastes.
3) Place roasted hazelnuts in a small food processor and pulse several times until they reach a course grind. Add rosemary and panko bread crumbs and pulse several more times. Pour into a shallow dish that comfortable fits an entire fillet of fish.
4) Spread the mayo mixture over one side of the tilapia. It should be spread on just thick enough that you don’t see much of the fish beneath the coating.
5) Carefully place the fish, coated side down, into the hazelnut mixture and press gently.
6) While the fish is still in the hazelnut mixture, carefully coat the other side of the fish. Flip the fish, and press into the hazelnut mixture.
7) Repeat steps 4-6 for the other fillet.
8) In a pan large enough to hold both fillets, pour a thin layer of olive oil and heat over medium-high heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Place both fillets in the pan and cook for about 2-4 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of the fish.