Blackened Tilapia

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I love Cajun food, particularly Blackened Redfish, but since I didn’t have any Redfish, I substituted Tilapia. I made these the same time as I made my Cedar Planked Lemon-Pepper Tilapia. As before, I had this bag of Tilapia just sitting in the freezer, so I figured I’d do something with it.

The raw materials…

I split the bag in half. I blackened 6 fillets and cedar planked the other 6.

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I used a variation of a recipe from Terry Thompson’s The New Cajun-Creole Cooking cookbook. Here is the recipe I used to “paint” the fillets.

Dry Ingredients “Wet Ingredients”
  • 1 tbsp. Paprika
  • 1.5 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. dried thyme
  • 6 Tilapia fillets
  • 2 cups butter melted
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (fresh squeezed, never the stuff from the plastic lemons, EVER!)

I melted the butter in the microwave on low heat, then stirred in all the rest of the ingredients and allowed the mixture to cool. Once cool I painted each fillet on both sides with the mixture and let it marinate for about 3 hours.

Painting the fillets…

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While the fillets were marinating I started a full chimney of Kingsford briquettes. I used half of the lit coals to fill a Weber basket, and the rest I spread in a single layer to toast cedar plank for the other fish I cooked.

Lighting the coals…

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Laying ‘em down…

I let the cast iron griddle heat for about 15 minutes over the weber basket. You’ll know when your griddle/skillet is ready, because the cast iron will get a bit of a gray haze on it.

As soon as you put the fillets on they will produce prodigious amounts of smoke. They will sear and begin to cook immediately. Be careful that the spits and sputters from the fish and butter don’t burn you. You may be tempted to lift the fillets or move them. DON’T! You will touch this only once, when you flip it over. It took these about 3 minutes per side.

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The finished product…

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These tasted as good as they look. One fillet never made it in the house. I brought out a fork and plate and ate it there at the grill.

Lessons Learned/For next time…

The Tilapia was a little too tender for this recipe. A couple of fillets got mangled in the turning. In addition, the weather was cold that day so I had to watch the heat on the second round of fillets. I can’t wait to try this with some Redfish or Red Snapper next time!

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Cedar Planked Lemon-Pepper Tilapia

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I cooked these the same weekend I did the Smoke Roasted Round Roast. I had a bag of Tilapia that was taking up space in the freezer. Plus this fish cooks relatively fast. So I decided that I would blacken some, and then use up  my last cedar plank on these fillets.

A bit of courage…

This cook’s official sponsor was a Polish Mule. A great cocktail and easy to mix. 2 oz. Chopin Rye Vodka, juice of half a lime (freshly squeezed, not that green plastic grenade), two dashes of Angostura Bitters and 6 oz ginger beer over ice.

The funny thing about grilling in the middle of winter in Philly, when I take my drinks outside, they actually get colder!

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Step 1: Season…

These fillets got a simple dusting of equal parts kosher salt and ground black pepper. Nothing too complicated here, as the flavor is going to come from the wood and the lemons during the cook.

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Step 2: Gimme some heat…

I lit a full chimney of briquettes, filling one weber basket and then spreading the rest next to it. Below you see me toasting the cedar plank while cooking some blackened tilapia along side. It took about 5 minutes for the cedar plank to toast up nicely.

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Step 3: Laying on the fish…

After toasting the cedar plank, I flipped it, rubbed it with a bit of olive oil and laid the fillets on top. Then as you can see, I added 2 – 3 lemon slices on top of the fillets. Closed the lid and let it cook for about 10 minutes over a hot grill. The smell of the cedar and the blackening tilapia next to it, had my neighbor from down the street come down to see what I was cooking. That and it was 32 degrees outside!

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Step 4: Pulling the fish…

I ended up putting a third fillet on this plank, but the poor fillet never made it inside! He was sacrificed for the sake of cooking science.

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Results/Lessons Learned:

These fish came out very lemony. I guess this would work better with a fillet that had a more robust base flavor, like maybe Sword Fish or Sea Bass. One of the fillets was too lemony, the other two were great though. If I decide to plank these again in the future, I may just go for a spritz of lemon juice at the beginning and just be done with it.

But no worries I gave these a good home!

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