CRUNCHY OVEN-FRIED FISH

We used to pan fry our fish all the time placing an halved onion in the oil to absorb what we were told would be the fish odors. Then we slowly got healthier and were delighted when surfing the channels came upon Americas Test Kitchen and they were making this tried it and now it is a staple. We had baked fish before but it never really came out crispy or stuck to the fish. Who would have thought a skinny nerdy looking guy, Chris Kimball, would become one of my heroes although he does not seem to cook much, so I guess my real heroes are Julia, Bridget, Rebecca and the rest of the crew. He does pull it all together and I am sure he is a fine cook and not how he depicts himself on the show. Please keep inspiring and educating me.

CRUNCHY OVEN-FRIED FISH

Published September 1, 2008. From Cook’s Illustrated

With my minor tweaks and cheats

This is very similar to how I do my chicken cutlets either pan-fried or baked minus a few ingredients.

Serves 4

To prevent overcooking, buy fish fillets at least 1 inch thick. The bread crumbs can be made up to 3 days in advance, cooled, and stored at room temperature in an airtight container. Serve with Sweet and Tangy Tartar Sauce (see related recipe) or lemon wedges. Steve tweak: If you have a skinny end of the fish you can always fold under to make it about the same thickness as the other so it cooks evenly.

Ingredients

  • 4 large slices white sandwich bread , torn into 1-inch pieces Steve tweak: Whole wheat bread
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 small shallot , minced (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/4 cup plus 5 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour Steve tweak: Whole wheat bread
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish (optional) Steve tweak: optional? Not in my opinion
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 1/4 pounds skinless cod fillet , or haddock fillet, or other thick white fish fillet (1 to 1 1/2 inches thick), cut into 4 pieces (see note)
  • Lemon wedges

Instructions

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse bread, melted butter, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in food processor until bread is coarsely ground, eight 1-second pulses (you should have about 3 1/2 cups crumbs). Steve tweak: Use already prepared whole wheat or panko bread crumbs added salt and pepper and then melted butter. Transfer to rimmed baking sheet and bake until deep golden brown and dry, about 15 minutes, stirring twice during baking time (0-8 minutes using bread crumbs). Cool crumbs to room temperature, about 10 minutes. Transfer crumbs to pie plate; toss with parsley and shallot. Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees.
  2. Place 1/4 cup flour in second pie plate. In third pie plate, whisk eggs, horseradish (if using), mayonnaise, paprika, cayenne pepper (if using), and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper until combined; whisk in remaining 5 tablespoons flour until smooth.
  3. Spray wire rack with nonstick cooking spray and place in rimmed baking sheet. Dry fish thoroughly with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Dredge 1 fillet in flour; shake off excess. Using hands, coat with egg mixture. Coat all sides of fillet with bread crumb mixture, pressing gently so that thick layer of crumbs adheres to fish. Transfer breaded fish to wire rack. Repeat with remaining 3 fillets.
  4. 4. Bake fish until instant-read thermometer inserted into centers of fillets registers 140 degrees, 18 to 25 minutes. Using thin spatula, transfer fillets to individual plates and serve immediately with lemon wedges.

Step-by-Step

Keys to a Crisp Crust I love that they review

Soft, moist fish needs an extra-thick coating of bread crumbs to add flavor and crunch. Here’s how we lay it on thick:

Picture from America Test Kitchen

1. Pulse: Processing fresh crumbs very coarsely maximizes crunch.

Steve tweak: Use already prepared whole wheat or panko bread crumbs added salt and pepper and then melted butter.

Picture from America Test Kitchen

2. Toast: Prebaking buttered crumbs ensures that they are brown and crisp when fish is done. 0-8 minutes using bread crumbs

Picture from America Test Kitchen

3. Dip: Thickening batter with flour and mayonnaise prevents toasted crumbs from turning soggy and glues them firmly to fish.

Picture from America Test Kitchen

4. Coat: Pressing down gently on crumbs helps to pack thick layer on fish.

Picture from America Test Kitchen

5. Elevate: Baking fish on a wire rack set inside baking sheet allows air to circulate underneath.

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