Tilapia with Lemon Brown Butter – Salted Seaver Challenge 2

Were you up for the challenge? Last week I shared a Barton Seaver insight with you from his new cookbook, For Cod and Country and gave you the same challenge he gives his readers – test your salt limits. 
I took the challenge and was as surprised as he said I would be. My Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes reached a whole new level as I continued adding salt a little at a time. How much salt did I use in the end? 1½ teaspoons. This doesn’t even include the salt from the buttermilk. That’s a lot more than I expected, but as Seaver points out:

If you’re eating real food, meaning fresh vegetables, fish, meat, and poultry that haven’t been processed, then the amount you’re consuming is far less than what you’d get in most snacks, chips, and other products.

For my first Seaver recipe, I made his Tilapia with Lemon Brown Butter. (Don’t worry, I’ll share the Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes as well.) The fish was good. But, the onions were amazing. If you’re hesitating about the recipe because of the fish, just skip it and make the onions. You won’t be disappointed. And if you’re so inclined, the onions and Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes would make quite the combination. In fact, the onions and anything would make quite the combination.

Tilapia with Lemon Brown Butter
From For Cod and Country by Barton Seaver
Serves 4

This is a take on buerre meunière, brown butter and lemon sauce, a classic preparation for fish. I like to add onions to give the dish a little bulk and a balancing sweetness. The tilapia stands up well to the nuttiness of the browned butter.

1¼ pounds tilapia fillets
2 TBS flour
3 TBS butter
1 small onion, very thinly sliced
½ cup water
Juice of 1 lemon
2 TBS chopped, fresh, flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

Cut the tilapia crosswise into 1-inch-wide strips. Dredge the strips in the flour until evenly coated. Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. When the butter is beginning to brown, turn the heat to high and add the tilapia in a single layer. Sear until the fish begins to brown slightly. Turn each fish strip over and continue to cook for another 3 minutes. Transfer the fish from the pan to a serving platter and place in the oven to keep warm.

To the same pan, add the onion slices and another tablespoon of butter. Sauté until the onion begins to soften. Add the water and lemon juice and bring to a boil. The flour still in the pan will cause the sauce to thicken slightly. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley and the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Season generously with salt and stir to combine.

Remove fish from the oven and spoon the sauce over the top. Serve immediately.

Mikaela’s Recipe Notes
For the onions – I used a Walla Walla and it was amazing, but any onion would do and I think the color from a red onion would be beautiful.
About the lemon – I used 1½ lemons. 1 lemon was for the recipe as called for and the other half a lemon was squeezed over the top of the fish right before it was served. I tried it with and without this extra lemon and I definitely recommend the extra lemon.

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
Serves 4

5 medium russet potatoes, washed, pealed and cubed
2 TBS unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup buttermilk, warmed slightly
Salt to taste
½ cup fresh chives, chopped

In a large saucepan, cover potatoes with water. Bring to a boil and allow to cook until tender (about 30 minutes).

Drain potatoes. Drop in butter and ½ cup buttermilk. Mash until smooth, adding buttermilk as needed.

Salt to taste.
Note: Consider separating out a small portion of the potatoes to push your salt boundaries. See “Barton Seaver’s “For Cod And Country” Salt Challenge – How Good Can Your Food Taste?” for more details.

Stir in chives. Serve warm.

Recipe in print-friendly format

About Mikaela Cowles

I’m a food-gobbling, book-reading, aspiring photog. Born and raised in Seattle, I love dancing in the rain, bouquets of fresh basil and green grass between my toes. I like how kneading butter into flour makes my fingers soft. I’m passionate about all things sweet potato. I prefer my coffee black, my scotch on the rocks and my steak bloody. I hunt, when I have time; play basketball; and hike. I’ve been known to laugh so hard I hyperventilate. And, I’m the owner of Making Language Count, a boutique freelance writing business.

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2 thoughts on “Tilapia with Lemon Brown Butter – Salted Seaver Challenge

  • Ann

    What a great challenge! I have taken something like that – thanks to watching Chef Anne Burrell. I was constantly amazed how much she salted her food…I have a salt pig by the stove full of kosher salt and constantly, constantly, constantly taste as I go. I don’t hesitate to salt the food, but I seldom use canned – so you’re right!

    ….to me – salting should ALWAYS be to taste!