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.
Per 5 fish sticks and 3 tablespoons tartar sauce: CALORIES 279; FAT 8.6g (sat 1.4g, mono 3.4g, poly 2.8g); PROTEIN 29g; CARB 19.3g; FIBER 0.8g; CHOL 91mg; IRON 1.5mg; SODIUM 592mg; CALC 34mg
Reprinted with permission from Lighten Up, America! Favorite American Foods Made Guilt-Free by Allison Fishman Task. Copyright 2013. Published by Oxmoor House. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- Fish Sticks
- 4.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
- 1 1/2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 1/4 pounds cod fillets (1/2 inch thick)
- Cooking spray
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Tartar Sauce:
- 1/3 cup light mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons chopped kosher dill pickles
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, drained, and chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Preheat oven to 375°F.
To prepare fish sticks, place flour in a shallow dish or bowl. Place breadcrumbs in a second shallow dish or bowl. Combine 3 tablespoons water and egg in a third shallow dish or bowl, stirring with a whisk.
Cut fish into 20 (4 x 1/2–inch) strips. Dredge fish in flour, shaking off excess. Dip fish in egg mixture, and dredge in breadcrumbs. Place on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Coat fish with cooking spray.
Bake at 375°F for 30 minutes or until crisp. Sprinkle fish sticks with salt.
To prepare tartar sauce, combine all sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Serve tartar sauce with fish.