This post is contributed by Jennifer Segal, chef and author of the popular cooking blog Once Upon a Chef

If you’re wondering how to get your children to eat – or even love – fish, try feeding them this. They'll think it's kid-friendly food for them, but I promise you it's anything but. These tilapia fillets are lightly coated with panko, pan fried to crispy perfection, and served with a tangy garlic and lemon mayonnaise. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the best way to transform ordinary tilapia into a seafood sensation.

The great thing about this dish is that you can do most of the preparation ahead of time. Come dinnertime, all you have to do is throw the fish in the frying pan. You can also make a huge batch and freeze some before cooking, which makes for a quick and easy dinner another time. Gotta love two meals for the work of one.

To make these tilapia fingers, simply cut your tilapia fillets in half. Leave the thin sides long and then cut the thicker sides in half on a diagonal so they appear longer.

Next, bread the fish using the three-step breading method: first flour, then eggs, then panko. This will ensure a beautiful and crispy coating that will adhere evenly to the fish.

Lay the fish fingers on a baking sheet and season with them salt and pepper. Looks good already, right?

Coat a non-stick pan generously with olive oil and pan fry until crisp and golden.

Drain any excess oil on paper towels...

Sprinkle with salt, dip in Lemon-Garlic Mayonnaise and enjoy!

Crispy Tilapia Fingers with Lemon-Garlic Mayonnaise

Serves 4-6
Ingredients

  • 2 pounds tilapia fillets
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups panko
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges, and Lemon-Garlic Mayonnaise (see below) for serving

Directions

  1. Cut the tilapia into "fingers" by first cutting the fillets in half. Leave the thin sides long, then cut the thicker sides in half on a diagonal so they appear longer.
  2. Set up three large, shallow bowls in an assembly line. Put flour in the first bowl; beaten eggs in the second; and panko in the third.
  3. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Dredge fish fingers in flour mixture, shaking excess into bowl so just a light coating remains; dip in eggs and turn to coat evenly; then dredge in panko, turning several times to coat evenly.  (This can be a messy job...it's best to use one hand for the flour and eggs and the other for the panko.) Set breaded tilapia fingers on baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook (this can be done several hours ahead of time).
  4. Line a plate with 3 paper towels and set by the stove. Heat olive oil in large, non-stick saute pan over medium heat. When pan is hot, place first batch of tilapia fingers in pan (do not crowd) and cook until first side is golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Flip and continue cooking until done, about 2 minutes more. Transfer fish fingers to plate with paper towels and let sit for a minute to drain any excess oil. Remove any brown bits out of pan, add more oil if necessary and continue to cook in batches until done. Season cooked tilapia fingers with more salt if desired. Serve with lemon wedges and Lemon-Garlic Mayonnaise.

Recipe Source: Once Upon a Chef

Lemon-Garlic Mayonnaise

Ingredients

  • 1 cup mayonnaise, best quality such as Hellman's
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Mix mayonnaise, garlic and lemon juice in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.

If you want to freeze the breaded tilapia fingers, lay them in a single layer and wrap well with aluminum foil. Place in a freezer bag in the freezer.  When you're ready to make them, simply defrost them enough so they'll lay flat in the pan and cook as directed above.