For children, who are often unaware that their food ever existed outside its cellophane wrapping, there are few better lessons on the natural cycle of life than seeing a fish go from stream to table. One potential problem is reconciling that instruction with their finicky tastes. Here’s one solution: Turn your kids’ catch into that all-time childhood favorite, fish sticks. Nothing like finger food for teaching a noble and necessary lesson. Bring the kids into the kitchen for this recipe. (Just make sure they’ve scrubbed all the bait slime off their hands.) They can mix the tartar sauce and man the batter stations while Mom or Dad handles the frying. It’s a fun way to help them understand the whole process.
– 1⁄2 cup mayonnaise
– 1⁄4 cup finely chopped bread-and-butter pickles, plus some pickle juice
– 2 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley
– 1 1⁄2 lb. fish fillets (walleye, catfish, bass; any fish with firm, flaky, white flesh)
– 1 cup all-purpose flour
– 3 large egg whites, beaten
– 1 cup finely ground cornmeal
– Salt and freshly ground black pepper
– Vegetable oil, for frying
1. Make the tartar sauce. In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise with the pickles and parsley. Sprinkle in some pickle juice to get a saucy consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to use.
2. Cut the fillets into long, fingerlike strips. Prepare an assembly line for breading the fish by setting out three bowls: Put the flour in one, and season generously with salt and pepper; the egg whites in the second; and the cornmeal in the third, also seasoning it with salt and pepper. One at a time, coat each strip of fish with the flour, shaking off any excess. Then dip it into the egg whites, and allow the excess to drip off. Lastly, dip the fish into the cornmeal, coating thoroughly and shaking off any excess. Keep the fish on a plate until you’re ready to fry.
3. Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat and add about 1⁄4 inch of oil. When the oil is hot, add as many strips of fish as you can fit without crowding the pan. Cook until golden on the bottom, about 3 minutes, then turn and cook the other side for an additional 3-4 minutes, or until the flesh is opaque. Serve immediately, with lemon wedges and the tartar sauce. Serves 4 to 6.