Homemade ‘Fish Sticks’

My 20 month old son is an amazing eater. I have watched him eat foods that many adults won’t touch (kale, quinoa, green smoothies, zucchini, figs, blue cheese, to name a few). The one thing he has shown a distaste for is salmon.

I want him to enjoy fish, so I decided to back up and start with something more traditional and universally liked by children – basically, any protein in a breadcrumb coating. Store-bought fish sticks, like any frozen food, have a lengthy ingredient list with a good handful of things that I can’t pronounce or identify, so we decided to make our own.

My son scarfed them down, and so did I. We served the fish with a quick tartar dipping sauce, and some steamed broccoli. (As you can see, they are not so much fish sticks as irregularly shaped nuggets – but funny shaped fish nuggets didn’t sound quite right.)

Homemade Fish Sticks

2 lb wild-caught Alaskan cod (frozen, slightly thawed)Approx 1 cup whole wheat flour
Lawry’s seasoning salt
3 large eggs
2 cups panko or plain breadcrumbs
olive oil as needed for frying

1) Rinse fish and pat very dry. Cut cod into sticks, nuggets, or whatever shape floats your boat. The fish is easy to cut and handle when still slightly frozen.

2) Set up three shallow dishes: the first should contain the flour with a generous sprinkling of Lawry’s seasoning salt (or Old Bay, or salt, paprika, and pepper – whatever sounds good to you). The second should hold the three eggs, beaten. The third dish is for the breadcrumbs.

3) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and turn on your vent or open a window to prevent your entire house from smelling like a Wisconsin supper club on a Friday night. (The smell is great that evening in your kitchen. Not so great when it has soaked into the bathroom towels.)

4) Dredge the fish in flour, then dip in egg, then coat in breadcrumbs. Set on plate until there are enough pieces to fry.

5) Heat olive oil in non-stick or cast iron skillet on medium-high (you will need to coat the pan to prevent sticking, and you may need to add more oil if you cook more than one batch of fish.)

6) Fry fish pieces until golden on each side, then place on cookie sheet in preheated oven as you continue frying batches of fish. This will keep them warm and crunchy, and will finish cooking the fish if you didn’t already in the pan. Check a piece or two to make sure it is cooked – fish should flake with a fork.

Note: You could probably spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray and bake these in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes if you wanted to avoid the oil. They may not be quite as tasty, but it would reduce the overall fat.

Quick Tartar Sauce

2 parts mayo to 1 part sour cream
fresh lemon juice, to taste and thin (at least a couple of tablespoons, depending upon how much tartar sauce you are making
a few spoonfuls of dill pickle relish
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together, and enjoy fish with tartar sauce and additional lemon wedges