This Crunchy Tilapia reappears on my weekly menu often. I usually have everything on hand and can whip it up for the family on nights that I get home late and don't have a lot of time. Harper even loves it!
The tilapia part of the meal is super easy because I use frozen tilapia filets that I defrost quickly in the sink. I make a small mixture of melted butter and olive oil in a bowl and add a handful of Japanese panko crumbs and some seasoning.
I like to use pre-mixed seasoning for something like this. For instance, McCormick makes an "Italian" seasoning which is great here. If you don't have a pre-mixed season then use whatever you have. Salt, Pepper, Red Pepper Flakes, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder - those would all be great.
I first add some olive oil on the bottom of my baking boats and then season the fish lightly on both sides with salt and pepper before I add the "crunch." Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for 15 minutes and the topping will be nice and crunchy and the fish is flakey. Most of the time I even serve the fish in the boats at the table.
I spend my time (when I have it) making the side dishes for the Crunchy Tilapia. On this particular Saturday night I made a yummy orzo pasta full of flavorful veggies.
For the orzo I boiled one cup of pasta in salted water for 10 minutes. Meanwhile I chopped up half an onion, a carrot, some celery and leaves, and sautéed them in just a pat of butter. If I had garlic on hand that would have gone in too, but OMG, I was out of garlic! For some added "bam," I added a tablespoon of Better Than Good Bacon Jam, a crazy jar that I keep in the fridge for odd times when I want to add a big pop of "something." I let this veggie mixture really caramelize in the pan so that I would get some good browning on the bottom of the pan.
My goal is to make a pan gravy, so before I add flour and chicken stock I need a little more fat in the pan because my mixture looks dry. I added a tablespoon of butter, and when it's melted and bubbly, I sprinkle in about two tablespoons of flour. Move this mixture around so the flour cooks for about a minute, and then slowly pour in chicken stock, whisking and scraping up the bottom of the pan so it thickens nicely.
Bring to a simmer, and then I added the broccoli florets and the cooked orzo. At this point I put the lid on and turn off the heat to keep it warm while the fish finished baking in the oven.