Fish sticks were one of my least favorite foods as a kid. Cups of ketchup weren't enough to compensate for the spongy texture, bland flavor, and grey color of the frozen sticks. Could a homemade version help me overcome those nightmarish childhood meals? The oven fried fish sticks in Allison Fishman Task's new cookbook, Lighten Up, America!, use fresh, flaky cod coated with crisp panko and spritzed with cooking oil spray to replicate the golden, fried exterior of the frozen variety. She serves them with a tangy, bright tartar sauce lightened up with lemon and low-fat mayonnaise. The finished sticks are a far cry from the frozen mystery fish of my childhood—good enough to enjoy sans ketchup.
Why I picked this recipe: I knew I needed to give fish sticks another chance.
What worked: The flour and panko breading kept the fish crisp and light, and the low-fat tartar sauce still retained its zip.
What didn't: The fish needs salt before cooking. Seasoning the strips before breading or seasoning the flour would help.
Suggested tweaks: You could use any firm white fish here in place of the cod. Adding minced parsley or tarragon to the panko would add color and bright herbal flavor. If you don't like light mayonnaise, you can always substitute full-fat.