To me, blueline tilefish (AKA gray tilefish) is an underrated, unsung hero in the world of seafood. While you won’t see this species on many restaurant menus, it’s a relatively common deep-water demersal predator found around virtually the entire state. Its firm, white fillets are delicious prepared with a variety of cooking methods but, for this recipe, the oven is the way to go.
Ingredients (serves 2)
- 2 single-portion tilefish fillets
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
- 3 Tbsp. shredded parmesan cheese
- 2 small key limes
- 2 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. black pepper
- 1 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and take your fish out of the refrigerator. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and either run a stick of unsalted butter on the foil or spray with cooking spray.
Before you lay your fish down, melt your butter in a small saucepan. Be sure to use very low heat so the butter doesn’t burn. After adding your butter to the pan, add your garlic and a teaspoon each of salt and black pepper. Let the butter melt completely. Once the butter is melted, stir the minced garlic, salt and pepper evenly into the melted butter and let simmer for about two minutes.
While your butter solution melts and simmers, give your tilefish fillets a quick rinse with just a little bit of fresh water. You really want to avoid water-logging the fish. Pat the fillets dry with paper towels and place them on the aluminum foil.
Apply salt and black pepper to both sides of each fillet – about a quarter teaspoon each side should suffice. Next, carefully spoon the melted butter, garlic, salt and pepper solution onto the top of each fillet.
If you’re using regular limes, squeeze the juice of half a lime onto each fillet. If you’re using small key limes like I did (recommended), squeeze the juice of an entire key lime onto each fillet.
Finally, lay down a layer of shredded parmesan cheese on the top of each fillet. The amount of cheese you use should vary based on the size of the fillet, but I used about a tablespoon and a half for each piece of fish. If the fish itself is the star of this dish, the parmesan cheese is the co-star, so don’t be bashful here. You want an even layer of cheese that covers the whole fillet.
Once the oven has reached 425º, put the fish in on the top rack. Your cooking time depends entirely on the thickness of the fillets, but 6 minutes did the trick here for my inch-thick tilefish. Remember, you don’t want to overcook the fish!
Once the fish is almost fully cooked and the cheese is melted, switch your oven setting to broil and let the cheese brown and crisp for approximately 2 minutes. You want a slight crunch in the parmesan crust when you cut into the fish.
When the fish is done and the cheese is nice and crispy, plate your fillets and sides. For this dish, I chose sauteed asparagus and red rice, which paired perfectly with the bold flavors of the fish. Finally, garnish with chopped cilantro and a small lime wedge and enjoy!