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Sautéed Tilpaia with Chive-Lemon Butter

Tilapia is an extremely versatile fish with a very mild flavor.  This means that it really needs something to punch up the flavor for the dinner table.  Using seasoned flour and other coatings are one way to do that, but good ole Cooks Illustrated showed me a different way that is so simple and easy that it's become a staple in my "Quick and Easy Dinner" file.  Serves 2.  Note that the tilapia fillets will be divided into thick and thin pieces which require different cooking times.

2 5-6 ounce skinless tilapia fillets (see notes)
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
For the Butter  
1 tablespoon white miso (see notes)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
pinch black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives

Place tilapia on cutting board and sprinkle both sides with salt.  Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.

While the fish rests combine miso, lemon zest and juice, and pepper in small bowl.  Add softened butter and combine thoroughly.  Stir in the chives an set aside.  When rested pat dry the fish with paper towels.  Using seam that runs down the middle of the fillet as a guide, cut each fillet in half lengthwise to create 1 thick half and one thin half.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in 12-inch skillet over high heat until just smoking.  Add thick halves of fillets to skillet/  Cook, tilting and gently shaking skillet occasionally to distribute oil, until undersides are golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes.  Carefully flip fillets and cook until second sides are golden brown and, using an instant read thermometer, the tilapia registers 130 to 135 degrees, another 2 to 3 minutes.  Transfer tilapia to serving platter and dot fillets with about two-thirds of the butter.

Reheat skillet with remaining oil and cook the thin halves until undersides and golden brown, about one minute.  Flip ad cook until second sides are golden brown, about one minute.  Transfer to serving platter and top with remaining butter.


  1. The fillets can be fresh or frozen, but if using frozen fillets ensure that they are thawed before cooking.
  2. The miso is used to add a sweet-salty flavor to dishes.  The Chive-lemon butter will be good without it, but use it if available.



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