so, once upon a time in a restaurant, i had a filet of white fish that was coated in a crunchy-sweet nut topping, predominantly made up of pistachios. i've been pondering re-creating this, or some improved variant thereof for quite a while now, and i got around to it tonight.
(as per my usual m.o., no real measurements, just an eyeball-ballpark sort of estimation.) in my mortar, i ground up a handful of pistachios and a few pinches of coconut. the coconut is yet another of the miraculous findings i acquire at the asian market...it's basically been chip-tified, where it's very thin-cut and super crunchy, but not at all oily as a deep-fried food would be. the dry crunchiness means that it can be ground into as small of pieces as you'd like, so to re-create the concept without the same product, i think that mincing regular dried coconut would work ok. to this mix i added a couple of croutons, since i thought the flour/breadedness would bind things better. a generous dash each of dill & garlic powder completed the ground-to-coarse-meal mixture, which was poured onto a plate that received egg-coated previously-frozen tilapia after their dunk. diced garlic was roasted in butter on medium-hi heat, the fish were seared on both sides, and then covered to finish on medium-low.
the experiment was a pretty solid success as far as the flavor goes - things were savory with a hint of sweetness, but not overpowering to the natural mild flavor of tilapia. however, the presentation, not so pretty. most of the coating fell off quite quickly, leaving only a light smattering here & there on the fish. in some places, it continued to cook as a solid sheet, like a thin pastry in the pan, which tasted great but didn't look as nice as it would have as a breading/coating ON the filet. it easily lifted from the pan when it was time to eat, so i'm not worried that the fall-apart problem was all due to sticking. additionally, the crouton portion ended up burning quite quickly, so while the nuts & coconut were toasty brown, the in-between-bits were unpleasantly blackened (i.e., burnt, so sad!
so, question: should i have used something else, or nothing, to bind the nuts & coconut to the fish? was the tilapia filets' previously frozen nature to blame for the lack of adequate sticking of the breading? any thoughts or suggestions?