I always seem to have a surplus of tortilla chips in the house during the summer. While I love dipping into a good bowl of salsa poolside, I’ve found that when crushed up, all of those leftover salty chips (especially the fragments at the bottom of the bag that are otherwise undippable) also make a delicious coating for chicken and fish. Not to mention easy. Just toss the chip crumbs with your favorite spices and you have an instantly crunchy, flavorful breading that’s easy enough to pull together even the busiest of weeknights. In one of my favorite summer dinners, I bread flaky tilapia fillets with cumin- and chipotle-seasoned chips and pan fry until crispy and golden. Served with Cherry Tomato Pico de Gallo and a drizzling of Cilantro-Lime Crema, this Tortilla Crusted Tilapia is a bright, fresh, full-flavored dish equally suitable for a quick weeknight meal or to serve to summer dinner guests.
Tilapia is my favorite fish to serve with a tortilla chip coating; it’s firm, yet flaky, so it tends not to fall apart during cooking. Most of your favorite white fishes can be substituted; flounder, cod, and haddock would all work well, though it’s best for the fillets to be on the thinner side so they cook quickly and evenly in the pan. In terms of chips, you can use whatever variety you have on hand, though, I’ve found a coating made exclusively of blue corn to be a little tougher in texture. When I have both varieties available, I like to use a mixture of yellow/white and blue corn chips, crushed finely (easy to do by just popping them in a plastic storage bag and rolling with a pin). The light, crispy texture of the pan-fried coating is a great contrast to the tender fish, and its confetti-like appearance a festive addition to the dinner table.
We absolutely love the contrast of fresh Cherry Tomato Pico de Gallo, and smooth, creamy Cilantro-Lime Crema against the crispy fish. The sweet tomatoes and tart lime bring a nice element of freshness and acidity, contrasting the deeper flavors of the breaded fish for a light, summery feel. As an alternative presentation, I’ve also topped these fillets with a simple cabbage slaw (such as the one served with Chef Evan Blomgren’s Buffalo Chicken Meatballs) and a squeeze of fresh lime juice, or my Grilled Pineapple Salsa. Regardless of which you choose, I would most definitely not skip the fresh topping component here; we find that it really pulls the dish together, elevating very good breaded fish to a delicious meal.
Speaking of salsa, indulge me for a moment while I shamelessly promote my latest BuzzFeed Community post: 16 Mouthwatering Salsa Recipes You Need to Make This Summer. In my never-ending quest to “up” my summer snacking game, I rounded up a collection of unique salsa recipes from some of my favorite food bloggers. I’m not sure which recipe I want to make first: Strawberry Jalapeño, Guajillo Chile, Fire Roasted Tomato and Roasted Garlic, or Mexican Street Corn. With Father’s Day and 4th of July barbecues on the horizon, it’s a great time to stock up on chips and start trying out some new recipes to serve your guests. And, of course, to save the leftover chips for a fresh and fun tilapia dinner. Win-win!