I’ve never baked whole Tilapia before tonight! When we lived on the Texas Gulf Coast for many, many years, I usually stuffed flounder, red snapper and sea trout. So this evening’s dinner was a learning curve for me AND my husband: me for the cooking of it; him and I both for how to eat whole tilapia, knowing nothing about the bone arrangement in them. They certainly are not as easy to eat as whole flounder, but I didn’t find them as difficult to eat (bone-wise) as fresh trout or bluefish, so I can’t really complain.
The taste was FANTASTIC! Much better than the frozen filets I usually buy at my regular grocery store. I found these frozen at Sam’s yesterday and thought I’d try them out. They came neatly cleaned, already scaled and individually frozen in plastic vacuum sleeves in a larger bag. After thawing and washing well with cold water, I cut the usual “H” pattern down one side, slid the knife along the bones I could feel with the knife and opened them up on one side to stuff, much like I have always done flounder. I had a half package of crawfish tail meat in my freezer, but no shrimp, so crawfish it must be for the stuffing. The final dinner was VERY tasty. My husband said this was so good, to be SURE and post it for my readers! We both found whole tilapia to be ever so much better than the frozen tilapia filets I can usually get here in Central Texas. So I hope Sam’s continues to carry this product. For this recipe to be suitable for Atkins Induction, you will need to substitute a flax-based bread like the One Minute Muffine in the stuffing. This recipe is acceptable for Keto diets and if a Paleo-Primal bread is used (or it is omitted) this is also suitable for those lifestyles. A quick glance at the nutritional info will sway you to include fish and crawfish into your diets much more often than most of us do. A very healthy meal, this one!
2 approx 3/4 lb. tilapia, cleaned and scaled (yields about 7-8 oz. per fish after head, tail and bones are removed)
3 T. total, unsalted butter
5″ stalk of celery, chopped
2 oz. red bell pepper, chopped
1 oz. onion, chopped
¼ tsp. my Seafood Spice blend
Dash black pepper
2 slices my Gluten-Free Focaccia Bread, crumbled
6 oz. crawfish tail meat, shelled (I used frozen, already cooked)
DIRECTIONS: Make a knife cut down the center of the fish’s side until the knife hits resistance (likely the backbone). Next make a top and bottom crossbar cut to form an “H”. Now, doing one side at a time, slide the knife down the left side gently, resting it on the bones as you go and free the flesh from the bones as best you can. Then slide the knife in a similar manner down the right side. It doesn’t have to be perfect, so if this is your first time, messing it up isn’t a catastrophe. 🙂 Lay the two flaps of loosened flesh back out of the way (like opening an outdoor cellar door) to form a nice little cavity inside to fill with stuffing. Lay the fish on a silicone or parchment covered pan or a well-greased one (I used a silicone sheet). Set the pan of fish aside while you make the stuffing.
Preheat the oven to 350º. Melt 2 T. of the butter in a skillet. Add the Louisiana Cajun “Trinity” (celery, bell pepper and onion :)) and saute until tender. Add the salt, black pepper and Seafood Spice blend. Stir well to blend the ingredients. Add the crawfish tail meat and saute a minute or so until done (if not already cooked). Remove from heat and add the breadcrumbs. Stir well.
Using a medium spoon, fill each fish with half the stuffing. You will likely have to press it down firmly for it all to stay in the cavity you formed. Fold the flesh back up over the stuffing as best you can and press again. Place the last tablespoon of butter in the pan between the fish and pop into the 350º oven. When the butter has melted, pull out the pan and baste the outside of the fish with it and put back into oven. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until flesh appears opaque and flaky (not raw). I have a super long blade spatula for lifting fish off pans, but if you do not, I recommend using two small ones to lift the fish out onto your serving platter or dinner plates. I served mine with a lovely green salad. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we did. We haven’t had whole, stuffed fish in a very long time and we both had forgotten how much we like it.
NUTRITIONAL INFO: Makes two individual stuffed fish, each contains:
33 g fat
6.5 g carbs, 2.4 g fiber, 4.1 g NET CARBS
65 g protein
646 mg sodium