Our family doesn’t eat out at restaurants very often. For one, since both my husband and I enjoy cooking, we don’t have the desire to spend our dollars that way. My husband is also very picky when it comes to restaurant-made food, particularly when it comes to the chain eateries. “I can make this for one-third the cost and it would taste a hellavalot better,” is his usual grumble.
Every Christmas we inevitably get a gift card from one family member or another to Carino’s, an Italian food chain. One of the dishes we enjoy ordering from there is their Jalapeño Garlic Tilapia. The first time my husband ordered that, soon after he began trying to replicate the dish in our kitchen. After several years, I believe he has finessed the recipe into a close approximation of the dish — but of course his is better! Now I’ve only ever watched him make this on the sidelines, and he doesn’t share my desire to write, so the recipe below is my best guess. But the nice thing about cooking most dishes is you can improvise. I do all the time, believe me.
Jalapeño Garlic Tilapia
4-6 filets of Tilapia (or other light white fish)
Milk and flour for coating
Panko bread crumbs
Mrs. Dash Table Blend
Salt and pepper
Dip the fish in milk, lightly coat with flour then pat down into the seasoned bread crumbs on each side until coated. Cook in a medium-hot skillet with a layer of oil in it for 4-5 minutes each side, until fish is done. Drain on paper towels, cover and keep warm.
1/4 cup butter
2-3 teaspoons minced garlic
2-3 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk or cream
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice
1-2 teaspoons chopped pickled jalapeños
1 green onion, sliced thin and cut into half-inch pieces
Handful of fresh chopped spinach
1 small Roma tomato, chopped
Pour oil out of skillet, then place back on heat and add the butter to melt. Stir in the garlic until beginning to sizzle, then add the flour to make a paste. Slowly whisk in milk or cream and stir until smooth. Add Parmesan cheese and stir until melted. Add more milk or cream if necessary. Add the last five ingredients and stir until spinach is wilted. Place 2-3 filets over cooked angel hair pasta, spoon a generous amount of sauce over them, and top with more grated Parmesan cheese.
Note: I was able to interrupt my husband watching the football playoffs long enough for him to tell me that sometimes he uses the dry Alfredo mix package for the base then adds the other ingredients to it. You could also use the jarred sauce, but we’ve never been fond of the brands that we’ve tasted so far.