Blackened Tilapia – a page from a Creole Cookbook
Originating in Louisiana, the Creole style of cooking combines the European cooking methodologies with the local American ingredients. Though it has influences of Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian cuisines, the major inspiration comes from the French. The blend of classical European cooking styles with new ingredients found in the New World gave rise to a very rich and flavourful cuisine.
Also, as it is centered around the bayou region of Louisiana, Creole cooking has a strong focus on fish and shell fish, which makes it even more attractive.
The first Creole cookbook in English was La Cuisine Creole, published in 1885, which is available from Amazon in printed and Kindle editions. In addition to recipes, the books provides information on the background and development of the cuisine as well.
Jambalaya, Gumbo, Etouffee, Bananas Foster… the signature dishes of the region are many. And just the memories of them are enough to induce drooling.
With its flavour combinations that lean towards the spicy, it was love at first taste for me!
And watching Emeril Lagasse on Food Network TV made it easy to kick it up a notch too! In fact, his ‘Louisiana Real and Rustic’ is my go-to reference for Creole cooking. Though the other day, when I wanted to make blackened tilapia, I did not have to refer to any book; I have made it so many times!
Blackened fish, is a quintessential Creole dish, very easy to do, usually made with catfish. But you can attempt it with any firm white fleshed fish. This time, I made it with tilapia fillets.
The key part of the dish is the spice rub – a combination of onion powder, garlic powder, paprika and other herbs.
I have tried different spice combinations, but the one that worked to perfection for me has an wee bit of clove powder in it which adds a bit of extra flavour. (See recipe below.)
You need to let the fish sit for at least 30 minutes, up to an hour, after applying the rub. And totally against the traditional method, where the fish is fried at high heat, I baked it on an aluminium foil lined baking sheet.
It couldn’t have been better! Flaky, spicy, moist fish, done in 15 minutes!
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp red chilli powder
- ½ tsp clove powder
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp dried basil
- Salt to taste
- 3 tilapia fillets
- 1 tsp olive oil
- Mix together thoroughly well all the spices and dried herbs, with the salt. You can vary the proportion of paprika and red chilli powder to adjust the heat to your preference.
- Wash and dry the tilapia fillets.
- Apply the spice rub on both sides of the tilapia fillets and keep aside for at least 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit.
- Line a baking sheet with foil. Brush the foil with a teaspoon of olive oil.
- Lay the fillets on a foil, without overlapping.
- Place on the middle rack of the oven and cook for 15 minutes.
- Gently test with a fork. If the fish begins to flake, it is done.
- Serve with brown rice and vegetables.