A fish dish for hectic days

Whether your busy days are during the week, on the weekend, or both, you deserve to have a few easy recipes to fall back on when you are crunched for time.  I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but fish is one of the easiest things to make in a hurry.  Where we live, smack in the middle of the U.S., frozen fish really is our best bet for getting fresh fish, at least in my opinion. I keep a few frozen tilapia filets on hand for quick dinners.

If you are planning ahead, you can thaw your frozen fish in the fridge overnight, or you can thaw it, in its wrapper, in cold water. Or, if you have the cooking time, you can cook it frozen. I’m not sure what the experts say on this, but I have had fine results putting fully frozen fish in the oven.

I have watched cooking shows where they cook fish “en papillote” and I’ve had it in restaurants, but I hadn’t tried cooking this way until yesterday. In case you haven’t seen this before, this is fish cooked in a parchment paper envelope, so it steams in the oven. It looks fancy, but it really fits into the fast and easy cooking category. The fish is beautifully cooked and there is a minimum of clean-up.

I was going to use lemon juice and zest on my fish, but when I pulled the lemon out of the fridge, still in its plastic bag from the produce section, my thumb went right through its moldy, soft peel. Can I say, “Ewwww!”? Luckily I had lemon zest in the freezer from a lemon I needed for juice a while back. Always (or at least when you think of it) zest your citrus before you use the rest of the fruit, and stash the zest in the freezer for culinary emergencies.

Topped fish, ready for its parchment wrapping.

So I drizzled my (partially) thawed fish with a tiny bit of olive oil, about ½ teaspoon for each filet. Then I topped them with sliced garlic and lemon zest. I folded my parchment around them, put them in a glass dish and baked them for 30 minutes. That may seem like a long time to you, but they were still about half-frozen and we really don’t like “wet” fish. I know most people might think this results in overdone fish, so adjust your cooking times to suit your tastes.

My fish packets, ready for the oven. Notice my folding got better as I worked my way from the right to the left.

Pair with easy sides, like baked potatoes, rice or couscous and some steamed veggies or fresh fruit and dinner is served.

“Fancy” Lemon Garlic Tilapia
from The Cook’s Life
serves 4

4 tilapia filets
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 small cloves garlic
zest from one lemon
salt, optional
pepper, optional
Parchment paper or aluminum foil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lay out four large pieces of parchment paper, or aluminum foil if you don’t have parchment. Lay fish filet in the middle of each piece of parchment. Drizzle each filet with about ½ teaspoon olive oil. Peel the garlic and slice it into the thinnest slices you can. Divide garlic and lemon zest evenly between the filets. Salt and pepper each filet lightly, if desired.

Fold the top half of the parchment (or foil) down to meet the bottom half of the parchment. Start folding the bottom edge over the top edge, in small pleats all around the fish. You will end up with a semicircular package. Repeat with the other filets and place them in a large dish or on a baking sheet.

Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with a fork, and is done to your tastes. If you are using frozen filets, you may have to add a few extra minutes to your cooking time.

Download the recipe here.

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2 thoughts on “A fish dish for hectic days

  1. You can also freeze your citrus whole! I’ve been doing it for *years*! I usually keep fresh limes and lemons in the fruit bowl and if I don’t get to them and the start getting a little soft I just toss them in the freezer! 🙂

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