In case you may have missed it while perusing five hundred some odd channels of TV, there is a show on the Food Network called, “Worst Cook in America.” I’m thinking of applying.
I’m honestly not quite as bad as some of the (ahem) cooks I’ve seen on that show. I can, in fact, scramble an egg and make spaghetti. However, whenever I try to expand my underwhelming food repertoire, I invariably end up dicing, slicing, and overcooking my way into a three-alarm blaze that necessitates a visit from the local volunteer fire department and results in a kitchen coated in foamy carbon dioxide.
This happened again recently when I tried to get my steak to sear in a cast iron pan and I not only ended up burning the steak, but also, somehow, a bunch of bananas, two salt and pepper shakers, and a thawing turducken. Not my crowning moment.
Ultimately I decided my problem was not that I was trying new recipes, but that I was trying recipes that were too complex for my sadly limited, highly combustible cooking skills.
So I decided to scale back and cook some tilapia. (Get it, “scale” back? That’s a fish joke.)
For those who don’t know, tilapia is a mild white fish that cooks in about five minutes in a pan and takes on the flavor of whatever seasoning you choose to sprinkle on it. It’s a fan favorite for moms who are trying to get their finicky eaters to have some fish and want something with a little more nutritional value than the cardboard fishsticks sold in the freezer section of the supermarket or at the local fastfood joint, made from some kind of fish that doesn’t actually exist in the real world or even a Disney movie.
Although I am a mother of two, I had never actually cooked tilapia for my kids, although I did serve them the frozen cardboard fishsticks because, in addition to being a terrible cook, I am also, apparently, a lousy mother. But then one day as I was perusing the salmon and shrimp, the tilapia caught my eye and I thought, “why not?”
The recipe I picked was super easy. “Lightly coat pan with olive oil and heat on medium flame, season tilapia with salt and pepper, garlic powder, parsley and dill, and then panfry it on both sides until the outside gets slightly crispy and the flesh turns white.” How hard could that be?
Not too hard… unless you are the Worst Cook in America.
Unfortunately, I skipped over the part of the recipe that said, “lightly coat” and “medium flame,” poured enough oil to qualify for OPEC status, and then cranked up the flame to “Roaring Inferno.” Then I added the fish.
The tilapia immediately started popping and sizzling and spitting big gobs of hot oil into the air like the precursor to an Icelandic volcanic eruption. I realized then that the pan was too hot and there was too much oil and I quickly turned down the flame. But it was too late. With a sudden earth-shattering pop, the half-cooked tilapia literally flew out of the pan and onto the floor.
Clearly my first venture into panfrying a tilapia was not a rousing success.
But at least the dog liked it.
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