Before having kids, I really enjoyed daily dinner prep. Both my husband and I are fairly adventurous eaters, so I had fun scouring the internet and cookbooks finding new dishes and techniques to try, or riffing on our fridge contents to create interesting meals.
Nowadays, I still enjoy making dinner but my methods and priorities have definitely shifted. Speed and “will the kids eat it?” are of the essence; new recipes and unusual flavors are typically saved for the weekends or side dishes. While both my kids like to eat, we do experience the typical toddler pickiness that often changes from meal to meal. So finding meals that are palatable for both three-year-olds and thirty-somethings can sometimes be a challenge.
One thing I can always count on my kids being willing to try is anything that involves dipping. So when I was flipping through Jane Hornby’s new cookbook Simple and Classic this breaded fish and tartar sauce recipe caught my eye.
Homemade fish sticks might sound a bit fussy and labor intensive, but these actually come together fairly quickly — totally doable for a busy weeknight. And — more importantly — they are delicious! Using a firm white fish means the fish sticks are mild enough for the little people, and the flavorful crust and punchy dip makes it interesting enough for the older ones. This definitely earned a spot in the regular dinner rotation!
I’m looking forward to trying some of the other dishes in Hornby’s book — it’s packed full of straightforward, easy-to-follow recipes that are simply photographed with step-by-step shots. There’s a nice blend of familiar dishes — such as Sticky BBQ Chicken, Chocolate Profiteroles, and Cheese and Onion Tart — interspersed with more adventurous ones — say, Raspberry & Passion Fruit Mallow Meringue, Lemon Basil Gnudi with Fava Beans, and Shrimp and Mushroom Laksa. Thanks very much to Phaidon Books for sending it along!
A couple of notes:
- Instead of using day-old white bread, I used panko (about 175g to account for the discarded bread crusts). I just mixed all the coating ingredients together in a bowl instead of using a food processor.
- This recipe makes quite a bit of coating; I had a bit leftover. I recommend just putting some of it on a plate to coat the fish and refilling as necessary. Extras can be frozen; in fact, Hornby suggests making a double batch and freezing the remainder for the future.
Fish Sticks and Tartar Sauce
Serves 4 / Adapted from Simple and Classic by Jane Hornby
- 4 thick slices white bread (day-old bread is best), about 7 oz. (200g)
- 1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 2 Tbsp mild olive oil
- 2 oz (50g) Parmesan cheese (2/3 c grated)
- 1 lemon
- 1 3/4 lb (800g) sustainably sourced thick white fish fillet, such as cod, haddock, or pollack
- 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 large egg
- 2 tsp capers
- 1 large or 5 small pickles (gherkins)
- 1/2 c (100g) good-quality mayonnaise (swap half for sour cream, if desired)
- salt and pepper
- salad greens or peas, to serve
- Preheat the oven to 425F (220C). Cut the crusts from the bread and discard. Put the bread into a food processor with half of the parsley — stems (stalks) too — and all of the oil.
- Blend everything together to make oily, herbed bread crumbs. Finely grate the Parmesan and the lemon zest, then mix into the crumbs with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl.
- Cut the fish into chunky sticks about 1 1/4″ x 1 1/4″ x 4 inches ( 3 x 3 x 10 cm).
- Put the flour onto a plate and season it generously with salt and pepper. Break the egg into a bowl, add salt and pepper to this, too, then beat it with a fork. Dust a piece of fish with the flour, then dip it into the egg. Let the excess egg drip off into the bowl below, then roll and pat the fish in the crumbs until covered in an even layer.
- Place it onto a nonstick baking sheet and repeat with the rest of the fish. Rinse and dry your hands every now and again, because they can get sticky.
- Bake the fish for 12-15 minutes, or until crisp and golden. Meanwhile, make the tartar sauce. Cut the lemon in half, squeeze one half, and cut the other into wedges. Finely chop the remaining parsley leaves, the capers, and pickles (gherkins), and put into a bowl. Add the mayonnaise and 1 Tbsp lemon juice. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.
- Serve the fish with the tartar sauce, lemon wedges, and some salad leaves or just-cooked peas.