Mar 26, 2010

Simple Tips for making Homemade Fish Sticks

My kids love fish sticks, but I won't go near any of the prepackaged stuff. I mean...have you read the ingredient labels on those frozen packs? yikes!
I difficult can it be to make them from scratch? right?
I made a batch last weekend, they were ok, but next time I want to make them really good. Finger licking good! :-) For that I need to learn the fundamentals of making good homemade fish sticks and of course Mark Bittman is my go-to guy for simple cooking techniques

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His teachings are simple: know your fish, know your coatings, know your cooking methods; and the rest is just a matter of personal taste. Simple right!
Know your fish:
Fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel are too oily and won't work; flounder and most trout are too thin and delicate for making fish sticks. The best fish for this purpose are pollock, cod, Pacific halibut, farm-raised catfish, even locally caught swordfish all work brilliantly and are sustainable choices as well.  Bittman recommends buying a piece that looks good, "with no drying or browning; fish that has been frozen at sea and well-handled (no freezer burn) is a good alternative."

Know your coatings and your cooking methods:
I'm not a fan of deep-frying, which immediately eliminates pancake-like or beer-based batters and the much-beloved tempura. For shallow-frying there are many coating options, ranging from a dusting of flour or cornmeal to breadcrumbs (specially for oven frying), to a super-light egg coating. 

No matter which coating you choose, unless you want to bake the sticks (recipe below) the procedure is the same: Cut the fish, lay out the coating, get your oil hot, and cook quickly: by the time the coating is golden, the fish is ready to turn.

Fast Fish Sticks (shallow frying)
by Mark Bittman

Serves 4


    • About 1 1/2 pounds boneless, firm, not-too-oily fish, like cod, pollock, swordfish, or catfish
    • salt and pepper
    • Cornmeal (or flour) for dredging
    • Olive oil as needed
    • Lemon wedges or sauce of your choice for serving


In a non-stick or well-seasoned skillet, add olive oil to a depth of about 1/8-inch and turn the heat to medium. Cut the fish into sticks about 1/2-inch thick and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Put a pile of cornmeal on a plate.
The oil is ready when a pinch of cornmeal sizzle instantly when you drop it in there. (If it instantly sizzles, turns brown, and sinks to the bottom the oil is too hot; turn the heat off and wait a couple of minutes before turning it on again.)
Turn the fish sticks in the cornmeal, trying to get it to adhere to every bit of each side but not fretting about the thickness of the coating. As each stick is done, add it to the oil. ; the amount that adheres is right.
For lightly Battered Fish Sticks: For the coating, prepare a pile of flour (cake flour is best, but if you don't have it all-purpose is fine) and a bowl with 2 or 3 beaten eggs. Dredge each fish stick in the flour, then in the egg, then put it in the pan immediately. Cook as above.

Fish Sticks (Oven Fried)

by Mark Bittman

Serves 4


    • About 1 1/2 pounds firm filleted fish, like cod, pollock, swordfish, or catfish
    • 1 1/2 cups milk, buttermilk, or yogurt
    • Bread crumbs, preferably fresh, for dredging
    • Salt and pepper
    • 3 tablespoons melted butter or extra virgin olive oil
    • Lemon wedges or sauce of your choice for serving


Cut the fish into sticks about 1/2-inch thick; soak in the milk while you heat the oven to 450°F. Put the bread crumbs on a plate and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
When the oven is hot, pull the fish from the milk and let it drain a bit. Dredge the still-wet fish in the bread crumbs, patting them to make sure they adhere. Drizzle a little of the butter or oil over the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking pan or large rimmed baking sheet, then lay the fish sticks in the pan. Drizzle with the remaining butter or oil.
Bake near the top of the oven for about 10 minutes, depending on the thickness; the fish will be crisp on the outside and tender and opaque when done. Serve immediately.


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