Thursday, August 29, 2013

Homemade fish sticks

As it turns out, I've spent the past week or so strolling down memory lane.  Thanks for joining me, by the way!

It's funny how themes sometimes present themselves in my cooking without any intentional effort.  The back-to-school feeling has been tough to ignore, so I stopped fighting it and went with my gut and embraced it.  (My stomach really wears the pants in our relationship.)

Growing up, weeknights at our house were pleasantly chaotic, like Grand Central Station meets a taxi stand.  Phones ringing off the hook, backpacks and duffel bags carried to and fro, and garage doors that looked more like revolving doors.  Bless my parents' hearts for being so incredibly supportive and patient with my sister and me!

My mom was the chief chauffeur and our favorite chauffeur because she always brought snacks for the rides between school and various activities.  Fruit, Handi-Snacks, tiny boxes of raisins, Teddy Grahams, or Quaker chewy granola bars were always on the backseat waiting for us.  But our favorite snack was, hands down, string cheese.  To this day, it remains a food I could not live without :)

Each night had its own commitments, be they ours or our parents', so it was rare that all four of us ate at the same time.  Despite those yummy snacks, we were absolutely famished by the time we sat down for dinner.  Knowing she had to feed four very hungry people anytime between 5 and 8, my mom favored dishes that were hearty and could be made to order or quickly reheated.

One of our favorite weeknight meals were fish sticks.  Were they the healthiest thing in the world?  Probably not.  But they were quick, easy and delicious, and we cleaned our plates every. single. time.

Thinking about those awakened a serious craving for fish sticks and got me wondering if I could make them from scratch.  If I could make Oreos, surely I could make fish sticks.

Requiring barely a few steps more than the freezer variety and only pantry staples, the homemade version reminded me of the those busy school nights but tasted even better!

Crunchy panko forms the most amazing crust around flaky cod.  The crunch you get with each bite is loud and proud, thanks to quick frying in juuuuust enough oil.  No soggy fish sticks here.  Small in size but big in flavor for sure! 

Though it most definitely reminds me of childhood dinners (especially served with peas and carrots), this is totally adult-friendly fare, too.  Serve them as hors d'oeuvres at your next dinner party with a variety of sauces.  Tartar sauce, chipotle mayonnaise, lemon garlic aioli, and honey mustard... the possibilities are endless!

One year ago: Thin & crispy chocolate chip cookies with sea salt
Two years ago: Slow cooker Asian-inspired pork chops
Three years ago: Slow cooker shrimp creole

Crispy Fish Sticks
(adapted from Bon Appetit's recipe)
-serves 2

1/2 pound cod fillets
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
Ground black pepper
1/2 cup canola oil, divided

Place eggs, panko, and flour in 3 separate shallow medium bowls.  Season fish with salt and pepper.  Working in batches, dredge fish in flour, shaking off excess.  Coat with egg, allowing excess to drip back into bowl. Coat with panko, pressing to adhere.  Transfer fish to a plate.

Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Working in 2 batches and adding 1/4 cup oil between batches, cook fish until golden brown and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.  Transfer fish sticks to a paper towel-lined plate; season with salt.  Serve immediately and enjoy!

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