As a family we try to eat a variety of food each week, straying from the meat and potatoes that Ole grew up on or the spaghetti with meat sauce that could be found on my childhood dinner table on a weekly basis. We strive to make our food life interesting, nutritious and diverse. However, it can be hard when you are a family of six balancing work, volunteering, homework, music lessons, sporting events and everything else that comes with daily life with young children to branch out and experiment, to try new things. That may explain why when it comes to beef and chicken alternatives, we seem to get stuck at salmon, as evidenced here, here and here.
While we venture into the realm of tuna, trout, crab and shrimp and scallops on occasion, our fish option, more often than not, lands on salmon. With wild salmon harder to find during these gray winter months, we ventured out of the box and picked up tilapia this week, what some may call the budget fish. In the realm of eco-friendly fish, U.S.-farmed tilapia usually makes the grade. Tilapia is easily farmed, eats oxygen-depleting plants, thereby cleaning the waters they live in without harmful chemicals, and is generally low in mercury. Ole’s complaint is that they are boring as far as fish varietals go, so we set about on a journey to undo some of the ho-hum of tilapia.
Squeeze half a lemon over the tops of the fish, covering as much surface area as possible.
Sprinkle some kosher salt and pepper over the tops of the fish.
Melt a tablespoon of butter and combine with ½ cup of milk. Pour into the baking around the fish. I pour it off to the side so that the fish remain covered with the lemon, salt and pepper during baking. I suppose you could just do this step first to avoid worrying about that. Regardless, add it in there.
And it’s ready for the oven. Just 15 minutes at 400º F should get you to doneness.
When the fish is done, remove it from the oven and pour off the sauce into a measuring cup. At this point, I place the fish on a heat-safe dish and cover. Once the oven has cooled but is still slightly warm, place them back in to stay warm while you finish the sauce.
Add enough milk to the reserved liquid to bring it to 1 ¼ cups. This should be about ¾ of a cup. Keep it near you. We’ll be using it momentarily.
In a saucepan, melt the butter. Then add a bit of flour while whisking. Continue to cook for at least one minute to make a roux. After a minute, whisk in the milk. This is a basic Béchamel sauce.
To finish the Béchamel/white sauce, add the juice from the other half of the lemon and simmer for 5 minutes until sauce thickens. Season with dill, salt and pepper.
Then go and grab your fish from where it has been patiently waiting in the oven. We’re going to plop it down, perhaps, on a pile of steamed rice.
Give it a generous amount of sauce right on top.
And serve it with an extra lemon wedge or two and maybe a salad and you have a meal, a meal for 6, in our case, all within a half hour, start to finish.