How to Sous Vide Tilapia
This recipe comes from my friend Chef David Nelson. He shared his version on my Facebook group, What I Cooked 4 Dinner Last Night. We are talking about two recipes here, one for the sous vide tilapia and the other for the spicy seafood broth.
I say that because the broth can be used on all sorts of fish. Chef Nelson served this broth with mahi mahi but I can see serving it with cod, halibut, sea bass, flounder, even shrimp or lobster.
I chose tilapia because the only other white fish at the market when I went shopping was cod and my youngest daughter doesn’t like cod at this moment. I don’t particularly like tilapia but cooking it sous vide kept it moist and tender.
It was perfectly cooked and went well with the broth and Israeli couscous but next time I’ll try sea bass.
Sous Vide Tilapia
In Chef Nelson’s recipe for mahi mahi, he cooked the fish at 131ºF for 30 minutes. I decided to do the same with the tilapia and it was perfect. You can read more about my First Sous Vide Experiences here.
Spicy Seafood Broth
When I read the ingredient list in Chef Nelson’s recipe, I was intrigued. I don’t often cook with V-8 Juice so I was excited to see what the broth would taste like. As it was cooking down, I tried a spoonful and immediately thought of Manhattan clam chowder and knew this recipe was going to be a keeper.
The spice comes from the red pepper flakes and you can make it as spicy as you like. Be careful though, a little goes a long with those little flakes.
The mistake I made was not paying attention and letting the broth cook down too much. Instead of a rich broth to be eaten with a spoon, it was more like a delicious stew served on top of the tilapia. I blame my mistake on paying more attention to my glass of chardonnay than to the broth.
If the timing of this recipe is right, the broth should be ready about the same time as the sous vide tilapia. If for some reason your broth is done ahead of time, I recommend you cover it and remove it from the heat.
You can always reheat it before serving it with the fish. Try not to let it cook down as much as I did. Still tasted great but I missed the soupy broth.
What If I Don’t Have A Sous Vide Precision Cooker?
Let’s say you don’t have a sous vide machine but still want to make this dish. No problem.
You could pan fry it to partially cook it and then finish it in the broth. You could throw it in the oven to again partially cook it and then finish it in the broth.
Or you could fully cook it in a pan or in the oven and serve it with the couscous and broth. Cooking it sous vide is just another technique you can use and be sure to cook it perfectly.
Sous Vide Tilapia in Spicy Seafood Broth
- olive oil
- 2 pounds tilapia
- salt & pepper
- 3 cloves garlic peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 large shallot or 2 small shallots, minced
- ½ red bell pepper diced
- ½ yellow bell pepper diced
- 1 cup V-8 juice
- 4 ounces white wine
- 8 ounces clam juice
- 2 pinches saffron threads
- 1 cup mushrooms roughly chopped
- 1 large tomato seeded and diced
- red pepper flakes to taste
- 1 cup Israeli couscous
- Set up your sous vide cooker and get it ready for sous viding. (see notes below)
- Set your sous vide cooker to 131ºF and set the time for 30 minutes once it reaches temperature. While the water is heating up, prep the tilapia and broth ingredients.
Prep the Tilapia & Broth Ingredients
- Rinse the fillets under cold water, pat dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
- Place the seasoned tilapia into two vacuum seal bags, add 2 -3 tablespoons of olive oil to each bag, vacuum and seal the bags.
- Wash and dry all the fresh ingredients. Thinly slice the garlic and mince the shallot. Dice the bell peppers, mushroom and tomato.
- When the sous vide cooker reaches 131ºF, place the tilapia into the water making sure the fish is complete submerged and start your timer. While the tilapia is cooking, start making the couscous and flavorful broth.
Prepare the Israeli Couscous
- In a medium sized pot of salted boiling water, cook the Israeli couscous until al dente according to the package instructions. The typical ratio of couscous to water is 1 cup couscous to 1¼ cups water. When the water is completely absorbed and the couscous is al dente, remove from the heat, stir and reserve.
Making the Spicy Seafood Broth
- Heat a large frying pan over medium heat and when hot, add a couple tablespoons of olive oil.
- Add the minced shallot and cook for three minutes before adding the garlic. Continue cooking for another minute until the garlic become fragrant and then add the diced bell peppers.
- When the peppers begin to soften, about 4 - 5 minutes, add the V-8 juice, white wine and clam juice. Stir to combine.
- Add a couple pinches of saffron threads and simmer this broth for about 5 - 8 minutes until it has reduced a bit.
- Add the chopped mushrooms, diced tomato and a good pinch of red pepper flakes. If you like your food spicier, add more pepper flakes but I prefer to have the shaker at the table and let my family decide for themselves. Continue cooking until the mushrooms soften, about 8 minutes.
- If the broth is ready but the tilapia isn’t, cover the pan and remove it from the heat. If your timing is right, the fish should be ready to remove from the sous vide water bath. You can always reheat the broth before serving if necessary.
Plating and Serving
- When all the ingredients are cooked, add some of the cooked couscous to the bottom of a soup bowl.
- Carefully remove the tilapia from the vacuum bag. It will be so tender it may break into a couple of pieces but if you are careful, you can remove it in once piece. If it breaks, don’t worry, it will still look good and taste great.
- Spoon the broth with the peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms over the fish. If you have some scallions, chives or both, chop a few up to use as garnish. Be sure to serve with both a fork and a spoon so your guests can savor the delicious sauce.