Cooking fish is kind of a cluster, amirite?

Dinner for Two: Fried Onion-Crusted Tilapia w/ Sesame Ginger Marinade

One minute it’s an undercooked mess, the next it’s got the texture of a tire – It’s a finicky game, and an expensive one at that. 

What’s frustrating about fish is that it proves all those horrible clichés about healthy eating – it’s inconvenient, high maintenance, and costs more than your soul. If you buy fresh fish it has to be eaten the same day, and if you buy it frozen it needs a week to defrost. And leftovers? LOL. The smell of reheated fish will kill you.

But even with all its shortcomings, fish IS an amazingly easy staple to add to your dinnertime routine. The key is to know how much to buy, in what form to buy it in, and most importantly – how the hell to cook it.

Dinner for Two: Fried Onion-Crusted Tilapia w/ Sesame Ginger Marinade

Dinner for Two: Fried Onion-Crusted Tilapia w/ Sesame Ginger Marinade

Dinner for Two: Fried Onion-Crusted Tilapia w/ Sesame Ginger Marinade

There’s a time and a place to spend a boatload of money on fresh fish, and tilapia isn’t one of them. Ahi tuna or lobster? Go fresh, go big, and spend that dough. But tilapia is often farmed and doesn’t require a meat-based diet, so it’s easy to cultivate and usually comes cheap – Buy it frozen, defrost in advance, and thank me later. Once you’ve got your fish (I find a 1/2lb works great for two) the next thing to tackle is the cooking. When it comes to a flaky fish like tilapia I prefer to bake rather than pan sear, since searing can become a real mess when the fish gets turned. Instead, my tilapia sweet-spot is 425F, oven middle rack, 10-12 minutes – No matter what marinades or toppings I’ve played with, this baking method has proven flawless every single time.

Dinner for Two: Fried Onion-Crusted Tilapia w/ Sesame Ginger Marinade

For this particular rendition I whipped up a homemade version of Trader Joe’s Sesame Ginger Dressing, which is one of my biggest TJ obsessions. If you’ve got the store-bought ‘ish on hand and would rather use that, be my guest! But not everyone shops at Trader Joe’s, so I decided to create a version from scratch. My spin is a little more acidic than the bottled kind — a lack of preservatives can do that — but it’s equally delicious and works amazingly with the tilapia, so if you’re feeling frisky take the extra 10 seconds and make it yourself.

Once the marinade is set you simply slather it over the tilapia — a 10 minute soak is all it needs — and in the meantime crush the fried onions, which is another blink-and-you-miss-it task. Last but not least, rub the crushed onions over the marinated tilapia, bake as directed, and boom! You’re fed.

Dinner for Two: Fried Onion-Crusted Tilapia w/ Sesame Ginger Marinade

Dinner for Two: Fried Onion-Crusted Tilapia w/ Sesame Ginger Marinade

The extra acidity of my marinade penetrates the tilapia beautifully, so it really sings with tangy, sweet flavor. But the fried onions are easily my favorite part – Salty, crunchy, crispy? Yes to all of it. It’s a really nice texture dynamic against the tender fish, and it just LOOKS all sorts of fancy, doesn’t it?

Dinner for Two: Fried Onion-Crusted Tilapia w/ Sesame Ginger Marinade

Fancy is always good.

Dinner for Two: Fried Onion-Crusted Tilapia w/ Sesame Ginger Marinade

Ingredients:

  • MARINADE:
  • 3 tbsps Red Wine Vinegar
  • 2 tbsps Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Sugar
  • 1 tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 1 tsp Crushed or Minced Garlic
  • 1 tsp Ground Ginger
  • a few drizzles of Honey
  • 1 tsp Sesame Seeds
  • FISH:
  • 1/2 lb Tilapia
  • 1/2 cup Fried Onions
  • Cooking spray to grease

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 425F. Lightly grease baking sheet with cooking spay.
  2. In small mixing bowl combine all marinade ingredients, whisking well. The marinade is slightly acidic to taste, but works great once cooked with the fish, so fear not! Next, in shallow baking dish or bowl combine the tilapia and marinade – Let the fish marinate for 10 minutes.*
  3. While the fish marinates, place fried onions in a Ziploc bag, then crush into crumbs with your hands. Set aside.
  4. When ready, press fried onion crumbs into the top and sides of each piece of tilapia — the bottoms do not get coated! –then transfer to greased baking sheet. Bake fish for 10 – 12 minutes on oven middle rack until flaky and cooked through, then immediately plate and serve. Pair with leftover marinade if desired.

*If you’d like (I did this!) save a few tablespoons of marinade on the side to dip with your fish once cooked.

Dinner for Two: Fried Onion-Crusted Tilapia w/ Sesame Ginger Marinadethat crunch!!! to die.