I wasn’t sure homemade fish sticks were going to be worth the trouble, or the $8.99 a pound for fresh fish, but happily, my reservations were unfounded. They were absolutely worth the minimal effort. You know how frozen fish sticks out of a box become shriveled, dry and…stick-like if you leave them in the oven a little too long? Now imagine the exact opposite: tender morsels of snow-white cod, a light and crispy panko crust–succulent flaky fish goodness.
Here’s some more good news: if you invest the time (and let’s face it, money) in preparing a bigger batch, you can freeze half of it now to whip out and fry another day. (Also, an 8-year-old may volunteer to mop the greasy kitchen floor if you pay her in quarters so she can buy lollipops at school to support shelter dogs. Just so you know.)
Homemade Fish Sticks
adapted slightly from Bon Appétit
2 pounds fresh, wild-caught cod fillets
1/2 cup flour
2 Tbsp. water
2-3 cups panko bread crumbs
a neutral oil for frying
Set up your breading station: Put flour, eggs whisked with water, and panko each in its own shallow pan or dish. Slice cod fillets horizontally into strips about 1-inch wide. Toss the cod into the flour pan and coat each strip thoroughly. Dip them into the egg mixture, again making sure to coat all sides. Finally, toss them into the panko, pressing extra crumbs into the sides if necessary. (If you are freezing a portion, lay the breaded fish sticks out on a baking sheet, cover with foil, and freeze for a couple hours, or until they are solid. Then transfer the frozen fish sticks to an airtight freezer bag or container.)
Heat 1/4 inch of oil on medium-high in a non-stick skillet. Fry the fish sticks in small batches until golden (about 3 minutes per side). Drain them on a paper-towel lined platter or a wire rack set over a baking sheet. If necessary, keep the fish sticks warm in a 300-degree oven until ready to serve.
Quick Tartar Sauce
Stir together in a small bowl: 1/2 cup sour cream, 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 2-3 Tbsp. sweet pickle relish, and 1 tsp. Dijon mustard.