No one ever said that fried food photographed well.
One might expect that for my first food-related post for the new year (my first post of 2014, actually), I would compose a nice, virtuous paragraph or two about a particularly healthy recipe perfectly suitable for a new year and its accompanying resolutions. While I certainly do intend to join the leagues of those who desire to cook from a more health-conscious perspective this year, I whole-heartedly confess to you that the meal that I'm going to be sharing with you today is not of the that variety. That would be because the main component of the dish is fried.
I have another confession for you: while I am like any other red-blooded individual that loves the deliciously bad-for-you crunch and texture of fried food, I have a serious aversion to frying anything in my own kitchen. It's silly, really. My general attitude towards food is that it should be thoroughly enjoyed and occasional forays involving funnel cakes or French fries are absolutely acceptable as long as they are, indeed, occasional. I simply cannot, for whatever reason, bring myself to pour inches of oil with wild abandon into my pan. It seems....reckless.
Considering that my little guy has an aversion to chicken and meat and consumes only fish as his chosen protein (the little prince!), I decided that I might have to relax and give in to my frying fears in order to try a time-honored family dinner: the fish stick. (Let's face it-one can only afford salmon so many times in a month!) Both my husband and I can recall eating fish sticks in childhood, and our memories are rather fond, even considering that they undoubtedly came from a box. When I saw a recipe for fish fingers crusted with panko in one of my newer, family-friendly cookbooks, I decided they might be worth a shot. Truth be told, I was initially swayed by the dipping sauce, which is good enough to eat alone.
I couldn't completely relinquish my anti-frying principles, even though the recipe calls for a reasonably small amount of oil (1/3 inch in the pain). I spread it around just enough for there to be a thin layer of oil in the pain (probably more like 1/8 inch), but it certainly did the trick. Thick wedges of halibut dredged in a soy-flavored egg wash and flakes of panko became something like the fish fingers of memory, with a lovely golden crust that absorbed the addictive dipping sauce and provided a perfect bite. Funnily enough, my first reaction upon tasting them was that they were really just like what I might expect for a fish stick, only with the satisfying knowledge that they were composed of fresh, wild fish with no added processed ingredients. It was difficult not to consume the whole bowl of sauce, and in fact, little A did indeed scoop quite a bit of it up in his spoon. We had to beg and plead to get him to actually eat the fish, despite how much he loves it.
Fish Fingers with Lime-Ginger Dipping Sauce, adapted from Keepers, by Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion
-The jury is still out on this book-it was recommended on one of my favorite blogs, and as I'm trying to make a real effort to create meals for my family that aren't especially complicated and will also appeal to the tastes of kids and adults alike, it seemed like a good fit. This was certainly a good place to start.
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 large egg whites
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 1/2 pounds thick white, flaky fish fillets, such as halibut, cod, or mahimahi, cut into 4x1-inch strips and patted dry
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil for pan-frying
1. Put the flour on a large plate. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the egg whites and soy sauce until frothy. Put the panko in a deep dish.
2. Season the fish with salt and pepper. Working with a few pieces at a time, dredge the fish strips in the flour, coating completely, then shake off any excess. Dip them in the egg mixture, letting any excess drip off, then coat them with the panko, gently pressing them into the breadcrumbs so they stick. Put the pieces on a platter large enough to fit all of them without crowding and repeat until all of the fish is breaded. If you have room in your refrigerator, chill the fish while the oil heats; it will help firm up the breading.
3. In a large skillet, heat about 1/3 inch of oil over medium heat. Working in batches, add the fish and cook until golden brown and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the fish to a paper-towel lined platter and tent with foil to keep warm. Repeat with remaining fish. Serve with the Lime-Ginger Dipping Sauce
Lime-Ginger Dipping Sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar (not seasoned)
1 tablespoon honey
Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1 jalepeno, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, honey, lime juice, ginger, and jalepeno (if using). Check the seasonings. The sauce will keep, covered in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days.