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Oil-Poached Tilapia with Salsa


Oil-poached tilapia with tangerine salsa

Oil-poached tilapia with tangerine salsa

Hank Shaw
Tilapia is hugely popular, but it is such a mild fish that it needs some help So I decided to slowly cook some fillets in olive oil and serve them with a bold salsa based off citrus and habanero chiles. You can make this salsa less spicy by limiting the habanero, and you can substitute another type of orange if you can't find tangerines. This recipe also works well with other fish such as rock cod, lingcod, walleye, perch, catfish, haddock or croaker. Don't worry about the amount of oil in this recipe -- you can strain it and reuse it afterwards.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour


  • 1 lb skinless tilapia fillets
  • 2 cups olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1 habanero chile
  • 4 tangerines or 2 oranges
  • 2 T. finely chopped cilantro or parsley
  • 2 T. finely chopped mint
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 1 chopped orange bell pepper
  • 1/4 finely chopped sweet onion or 3 chopped green onions
  • 1 finely chopped garlic clove
  • 1 t. white wine or cider vinegar


Rinse and then pat dry the tilapia fillets, then sprinkle them with salt and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot that can fit the tilapia fillets over medium-high heat until a drop of water tossed into it boils away rapidly. If you have a kitchen thermometer you are looking for somewhere around 220 degrees.

When the oil is hot, turn off the heat and slip the tilapia into the oil. Cover the pot and set aside.

Make the salsa. Using rubber gloves if you want, remove the seeds and the pith from the habanero chile and chop it finely. If you want a milder salsa, use only half the habanero.

Remove the skin and seeds from the cucumber and chop it into bite-sized pieces, about 1/2 to 1/4 inch.

Peel the tangerines or oranges and remove any white pith you see. If you are using oranges, cut the segments in half.

If you really want to get fancy, make "supremes" out of the fruit. This is optional, but it looks cool. Here's how: Slice the top and bottom off an orange, then slice the peel off, getting all the pith. You want to see the actual segments of the orange -- don't worry, you are supposed to be cutting into the fruit. Once this is done, hold the orange in your hand and carefully cut out each segment with a paring knife. You then have pretty segments with no skin or pith.

Regardless of whether you "supreme" the citrus or not, mix the vinegar, citrus, cucumber, habanero, orange pepper, herbs, garlic and onion into a large bowl.

Check the tilapia after 30 minutes. It should be done. Carefully lift out the fillets with a spatula and set them on a plate. Check to see if they're done by touching the thickest part of one with a fork: The meat should flake away easily.

Add a little of the poaching oil to the salsa and serve the salsa alongside the tilapia. This dish goes well with simple white rice, tortillas or crusty bread.

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