Make us your home page

Fresh and crunchy fish and chips, minus the fryer

The key to the crunch? Toast the bread crumbs before using them to coat the fish.

New York Times

The key to the crunch? Toast the bread crumbs before using them to coat the fish.

Years ago, I bought a box of frozen fish sticks in the hope they would become a seafood gateway for my small child. Her lips would lock whenever fish that wasn't smoked salmon on a bagel came near.

It worked as planned. After she polished off the box, I was able to keep fish on the menu if I served it crumbed and fried.

This was all well and good until my husband and I decided we wanted crunchy, crumby fish, too, preferably accompanied by its terrestrial soul mate, a golden tangle of french fries (or as they're called in Britain, where they've mastered the art, chips).

But since frying fish and chips for a family dinner on a weeknight wasn't likely to happen regularly, baking seemed to be the answer.

The hard part was getting my baked fish and chips to come even close to the audibly crunchy delectability of the fried stuff. There is a reason that fried fish and chips is a classic. It's tough to improve upon.

The main problem I had was with crispness. Without making contact with boiling oil, it was hard to get the fish to crisp on the outside but stay juicy within. And the crumbs remained white instead of turning golden, which made the whole thing seem like the eerie ghost of a meal.

Even the potatoes had issues. If I baked them long enough to crisp their surfaces, they turned leathery on the inside.

Fixing the potatoes turned out to be easy; I just cranked up the heat and cut the potatoes into long, thin strips. Then instead of starting them out in a cold pan, I preheat the pan the way I do when I want to get a nice, brown crust on a steak while keeping the center bloody rare. That did it. The potatoes crisped on the outside and were tender within.

The secret to the fish was to toast the bread crumbs before using them to coat the fish. This boosts their color and their crunch. And while I was toasting them, I added thyme leaves and garlic to the pan to add some needed flavor. A spoonful of sharp mustard mixed in with the egg for the coating helped that cause, too.

As is fashionable with the grade-school set, my daughter likes her fish and chips with ketchup. My husband and I prefer tartar sauce spiked with horseradish. But no matter how we dip, it's a family meal we can all get behind.


Baked Fish and Chips

For the horseradish tartar sauce:

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon chopped capers

1 tablespoon prepared horseradish, more to taste

1 tablespoon chopped dill

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

Pinch fine sea salt

Black pepper, as needed

For the fish and chips:

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed

1 1/3 cups panko bread crumbs

1 1/2 teaspoons minced thyme

1 large garlic clove, grated on a microplane or minced

1 teaspoon black pepper, more as needed

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

2 large eggs

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/4 pounds skinless hake, cod or other white fish fillets, cut into 1-inch-thick strips

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, more as needed

1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes (about 3 large), cut into

1/4-inch-thick sticks

Make the horseradish tartar sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Prepare the fish and chips: Arrange 2 oven racks in the top and bottom third of the oven. Place a large rimmed baking sheet on the lower rack and heat oven to 500 degrees.

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm 2 tablespoons oil. Stir in panko, thyme, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until crumbs are evenly dark golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer immediately to a bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together mustard and eggs. Place flour in a third bowl.

Grease an oven-safe wire rack with oil and place it over another rimmed baking sheet. Season fish with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Dredge each piece of fish in the flour, then mustard mixture, then panko mixture, making sure it is well coated. Transfer fish to the wire rack. (You can bread the fish up to 4 hours ahead; store in the refrigerator, uncovered, either on the rack or just on a plate.)

In a large bowl, toss together potatoes, the remaining 4 tablespoons oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Carefully spread potatoes out on the preheated baking sheet and return to oven's lower rack. Roast until slightly golden and crispy, tossing after 15 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees and transfer the second pan, with the fish still on the wire rack, to oven's top rack. Bake until fish is flaky and golden and potatoes are well browned and tender, about 10 to 15 minutes more.

Salt fish and potatoes immediately after removing from oven. Serve hot, with tartar sauce alongside for dipping.

Serves 4.

Fresh and crunchy fish and chips, minus the fryer 04/25/16 [Last modified: Monday, April 25, 2016 1:27pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, New York Times.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. If you miss out on Retro Futura tour, you'll be needing a little 'Tenderness'


    Closing out Retro Futura Week is a little bit of a cheat. We started the week with the English Beat and we end it with an offshoot of the Beat, the band General Public and their hit …

  2. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Aug. 20


    The Art of the Brick: An elaborate display of more than 100 pieces of Lego artwork including the life sized sculpture of a man ripping open his chest, a 20-foot-long T. rex skeleton, a giant skull and replicas of famous works including Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night and Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona …

    Eliana Goldberg, 5, of Wesley Chapel looks at a Lego sculpture called "Everlasting" at The Art of the Brick exhibit, which opened Friday in Tampa and runs through Sept. 4. [CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]
  3. Lightning owner Jeff Vinik backs film company pursuing global blockbusters


    TAMPA — Jeff Vinik's latest investment might be coming to a theater near you.

    Jeff Vinik, Tampa Bay Lightning owner, invested in a new movie company looking to appeal to a global audience. | [Times file photo]
  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Aug. 19


    Monster Jam Triple Threat Series: Come early for the Pit Party ($15 or free at local Ford dealers) to meet the drivers and get pictures with the trucks. 7 p.m., Amalie Arena, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. $15-$80. (813) 301-2500.

    A crew member from the El Toro Loco monster truck, installs a truck tire, Thursday, 8/17/17 in preparation for Saturday's  Monster Jam Triple Threat Series at Amalie Arena, Tampa. The event will be held Saturday at 1pm and 7 pm.
  5. There's a bar in Tampa where you can roller skate and eat sushi

    Food & Dining

    Roller skating, it's not just for kids birthday parties and the 1970s anymore.

    The exterior of Pattinis features this mural by Art Aliens! [Pattinis South Tampa via Facebook]