July 31, 2013 at 1:00 am

Let's talk food: Whitefish Bake super simple, cheap, succulent

Using swai for the whitefish in this bake made the dish not just inexpensive but more succulent. Surprise! (Maureen Tisdale / The Detroit News)

When a recipe has three ingredients, I can’t help but take a second look — even when it’s on a calendar.

My mother-in-law got me the recipe-laden calendar we have up in our kitchen. July’s dish is a Whitefish Bake involving just whitefish, a packet of dry ranch dressing mix (“on fish???” I thought at first) and butter. My husband loves ranch flavor, we always have butter on hand, and I had some tilapia loitering in the freezer, so I decided to give it a shot.

Since I only had two small pieces of tilapia, I needed to get more — and stumbled upon a nice surprise along the way.

I’ve been on a kick of trying to lower our astronomical grocery bill (often $800+ for three people, one of whom is 13 months old), and in the process of price comparing, I discovered swai. Where I thought tilapia was the go-to cheap whitefish, I found swai significantly cheaper, running $2.85 per pound at Sam’s vs. $4.33 per pound for tilapia (at Kroger, I found it for $5.33 per pound for swai vs. $5.98 per pound for tilapia) the week I checked.

The best surprise, though, was that I made the dish with both fish and found the less expensive swai far more succulent and flavorful.

If you want to cut calories and fat, most of the butter can be left behind in the pan — but since it was so nicely flavored with the ranch packet, I ended up pouring it over the rice I topped the fish with and feeding it to a husband who found it “restaurant quality.”

Not bad for three ingredients and 20 minutes. This is one calendar that won’t be thrown out when its time is up.

Whitefish Bake

Adapted from the Lang American Kitchen 2013 Calendar

2 large pieces of swai, deboned
½ package dry Ranch dressing mix
½ stick butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in a shallow baking pan. Lay the fish pieces over the melted butter and turn them to coat. Sprinkle with dry dressing mix. Cover with foil and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until flaky.

Do you have a favorite simple summer fish dish or surprise recipe source to share? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below. You need a Facebook account to add comments, but they’re free and easy to sign up for, which is how I managed to have one for years and ignore it except for this sort of thing. I’ll be keeping an eye out the next few days to respond to any great comments or questions you post. You can also follow me on Twitter @reentiz. Join the discussion!