Sautéed Tilapia over Swiss Chard with Tarragon Butter

Fresh tarragon lends a haunting, delicate anise flavor to mild, quick-cooking tilapia fillets in this recipe by David Bonom from Fine Cooking. And we LOVE-LOVED it!! The list of ingredients is short, the prep is minimal, the cooking time is only 10-12 minutes, but the payoff delivers in spades when it comes to flavor.

Chard is similar to spinach in that it wilts down to a ghost of its former self. So while two bunches may seem overkill at the onset, by the time it’s cooked down, you’ll end up with just four portions. Make sure to keep it warm in a tightly covered bowl or plate while you sauté the tilapia, which then gets added on top of the Swiss chard and covered again as you prepare the butter/tarragon sauce. (Note, I cut the butter by half, with the original recipe adding 8 Tbsp instead of 4.)

Before rinsing the chard, use a knife and slice along the main stem to remove it, then chop the rest into large pieces before rinsing and spin drying really well. Don’t throw away the stems, particularly if you’ve bought a colorful variety like Rainbow Chard. They’re good, though they take a little longer to cook then the leaves, so save them for another meal. Cut them crosswise into 1/4″ slices and sauté or braise. Just keep in mind that the red color will likely bleed into the other ingredients.

Swiss chard is not only one of the most popular vegetables along the Mediterranean but it is one of the most nutritious vegetables around and ranks second only to spinach of the world’s healthiest vegetables with an extremely high nutrient-density. The range of antioxidants in Swiss chard nutrition can be seen both in its deeply colored green leaves and also in the reds, purples, and yellows of its vibrant, multicolored stalks and veins.

Let’s talk about our wonderful side dish. Buttery, toasty pine nuts added a hit of richness to the jasmine rice pilaf, and that was amplified by adding homemade chicken broth in place of water. Finish with a generous squeeze of fresh lemon and a smattering of fresh chopped chives, and you have yourself a winning combination!



  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 lbs. Swiss chard, fibrous stems and ribs discarded; leaves coarsely chopped, washed, and dried
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4-8 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 lb. tilapia fillets
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tbs. chopped fresh tarragon


  1. Heat the oil in a 10- to 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 to 45 seconds. Add a big handful of the Swiss chard and cook, tossing often, until it has collapsed enough to add more.
  2. Continue adding the chard in batches until it’s all in the pan and then cook until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, divide the chard between two dinner plates, and keep warm.
  3. Wipe out the skillet and return it to medium-high heat. Add 1 Tbs. of the butter and let it melt. Sprinkle the tilapia with 1/4 tsp. salt and a few grinds of pepper.
  4. Add the tilapia and cook, turning once halfway through cooking, until it’s well browned and cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes. Top the chard with the tilapia and keep warm.
  5. Add the shallot to the skillet and cook, adding a little oil if necessary, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and beginning to soften, 30 to 60 seconds.
  6. Add the lemon juice; it should evaporate almost instantly, but if not, cook until nearly evaporated, about 30 seconds.
  7. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the remaining butter pieces (depending on how much you wanted to use) and tarragon, stirring constantly until the butter melts. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the butter sauce over the fish and chard and serve immediately.

Once the fish is cooked, place it over the hot chard and cover tightly while you make the sauce.

You can spoon the tarragon butter sauce over the platter or let folks add their own amount to individual plates.

We were thrilled to have leftovers for lunch the next day. Because our rice side dish was so dang delicious, I included the recipe below…

Jasmine Rice with Toasted Pine Nuts and Chives


  • 1 cup jasmine rice
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2 Tbs. chopped chives
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • Freshly ground black pepper


Cook the rice according to package directions with a pinch of salt. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and cook until the butter and nuts are browned, about 3 minutes. Combine with the rice and add the chives and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

by Ronne Day from Fine Cooking

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