Earlier this summer I reunited with my first, three cookbooks.
It took me some time and internet research to figure out their titles before I could locate them on Amazon.
I remember pouring over these books as a child. Most especially, the spiral-bound Kids Cooking: A Slightly Messy Manual that came with a plastic set of measuring spoons in primary colors. The books’ recipes aren’t anything mind-blowing for an adult who cooks a lot, but they are priceless for the memories.
Growing-up, my parents weren’t too keen on me experimenting in the kitchen, aside from baking projects. However, I do remember trying a few recipes from Kids Cooking such as the Alphabetter Soup and Frosted Chocolate Conecakes. I made mental checklists of recipes that I wanted to try someday when I had my own kitchen and, now, here I am!
One of these recipes was Home-Baked Fish Sticks from Kids Cooking.
The legend goes that my mom choked on a fish bone when she was a child which led to her lifelong disdain of all things fish. Therefore, we never ever ate fish at home because the smell would make her feel ill. I grew up thinking I hated fish, too, even though I was fascinated by seafood. It was like a little hate crush.
Someone else’s family vacation snapped me out of my aversion to fish. I traveled with my friend’s family to Livingston, Montana in grade school and tried all kinds of new foods on our epic road trip west. I can still taste my first bone-in pork chop, chicken-fried steak, jumbo prawns sizzled in fondue oil, and crispy, fried shrimp nearly twenty years later.
After tasting that first bite of fried shrimp, I remember realizing, “Well, I guess I do like seafood,” and then I never turned back.
My first childhood cookbook meal was a smash.
I prepared cucumber-tomato-onion salad with “Snappy Dressing” from Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Cake! to accompany my Home-Baked Fish Sticks and tartar sauce. Of course, I fiddled with the recipes.
For example, I added a step by dredging the fish in seasoned flour before dipping it in eggwash and bread crumbs. I may have added some garlic to Encyclopedia Brown’s snappy balsamic vinaigrette and chopped onion to the tartar sauce. Afterall, I am my own grown-up with a sharp knife now.
Someday when Jake and I have children, I hope we can enjoy these cookbooks together. We’ll be ready to accept our new roles as their grown-up kitchen assistants.
My Take On Oven-Baked Fish Sticks
Kids Cooking’s method of drizzling melted butter over the panko-breaded fish sticks before baking produces a crispy, satisfying coating. While this is not fried fish, it definitely scratched my itch.
1 lb of white fish such as cod, halibut or tilapia
1/2 cup flour (or enough to lightly dredge the fish) seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic powder
2 eggs, beaten into eggwash
1 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (add more if you run low or they become too mushy with eggwash)
1/4 cup butter, melted
- Pre-heat oven to 400℉.
- Set up breading station by placing the seasoned flour, eggwash and panko in their own wide, shallow dishes.
- Cut fish fillets into manageable strips. I cut the tilapia fillets in half.
- Lightly dredge the fish in seasoned flour, shaking off the excess.
- Dip the dredged fish into the eggwash. Allow the excess to drip off.
- Coat the fish in bread crumbs. Turn and press the fillets until they are completely breaded.
- Place breaded fish in a single layer on a baking sheet that is lightly greased or covered in parchment paper.
- Drizzle each fillet with as much melted butter as you’d like.
- Optional: Sprinkle each fillet with a little sweet or smoked paprika for extra color and flavor.
- Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until golden brown and cooked-through.
- Sprinkle with sea salt immediately after removing from oven.
- Serve with tartar sauce and fresh lemon wedges. I made my tartar sauce by mixing mayonnaise with lemon juice, minced dill pickle, minced onion, pickle juice, salt and sugar, to taste.