I vividly remember eating "fish" sandwiches as a child when the frozen square patties showed up in our local supermarket. I asked my older brother (who, of course, knew everything) what kind of fish was shaped like a square patty. He replied with all the authority of an 8-year-old older brother: "That's what they look like when they grow up from being fish sticks."
And I believed him.
Needless to say, the fish sandwich and I did not get off to a good start. But now, as I see a “modern take” on the fish sandwich in restaurants across the nation, I’m growing to appreciate them. Because sandwiches are so easy to prepare and are kid-friendly (no matter the age of the kid), I can see why my mom used to turn to the ease of the frozen square patties.
We are so fortunate that our grocery stores now have an array of fish that didn’t grow up from sticks. Today’s recipe for Modern Fish Sandwiches is a celebration of that. Choose halibut, snapper, grouper – any fish that you enjoy. Of course, you’ll also want to pick what’s on special. (I would never put a $15 fillet between two pieces of bread.) A gentle dusting of flour and a quick sauté, and dinner is done. Top it off with our Special Seafood Sauce – a delightful combination of tartar sauce and the traditional ketchup/horseradish mix – and you’re set to go.
Do you remember the early 1970s frozen-food trends? If not, join us in chowing down on a Modern Fish Sandwich and celebrate the wonders of supermarket evolution and our abundance of seafood. By the way, if you still crave frozen popcorn shrimp for that deep-fried flavor without the fuss (we do), check out our easy interpretation of Shrimp Po’ Boys at www.kitchenscoop.com.
Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross are mothers whose cookbook is called “Desperation Dinners!” Send tales of woe or success and your favorite quick recipes to Desperation Dinners, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Modern Fish Sandwich
Makes 1 serving (it can be easily doubled or more). Start to finish: 15 minutes
4 to 5 ounces fresh fish fillet (such as halibut, snapper, grouper, etc.)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
Kaiser roll or bun of choice
Lettuce leaves, optional, for serving
Lightly sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper. Put the flour and fish fillet into a gallon-sized, zipper-sealed bag. Shake to coat the fillet with flour. Remove the fillet, and shake off any excess.
Heat the oil in a 6-inch or larger saute pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, place the fillet in the pan and cook on both sides, about three to four minutes each (depending on thickness of fish), until it flakes easily with a fork. Try to avoid turning more than once as fish tends to crumble with multiple turnings.
Toast your bread of choice and spread 1 tablespoon of sauce on both the top and bottom of the bun. Add the lettuce, if desired, and top with the sauteed fillet. Serve immediately.
Approximate nutritional value per serving: 352 calories (20 percent from fat), 8 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 36 milligrams cholesterol, 30 grams protein, 39 grams carbohydrates, 1.5 grams dietary fiber, 906.5 milligrams sodium
Special Seafood Sauce
Makes about 3/4 cup (leftover sauce will keep, covered and refrigerated, for one week). Start to finish: 5 minutes
1/2 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish (Cook’s note)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 teaspoon horseradish, or more to taste
Place the mayonnaise in a small mixing bowl. Drain and discard the juice from the pickle relish, and add the relish to the bowl. Squeeze the lemon juice (through a strainer to catch seeds) directly into the bowl. Add the ketchup and horseradish. Stir to mix well.
Serve at once or refrigerate until ready to serve.
Cook’s note: Sweet pickle relish is sometimes called sweet salad cubes. If you can’t find it, substitute chopped sweet gherkins.
Approximate values per tablespoon: 22 calories (51 percent from fat), 1 gram fat (0.5 grams saturated), 0 milligrams cholesterol, trace protein, 3 grams carbohydrates, trace dietary fiber, 122 milligrams sodium