Happy Holidays and "Fish & Sticks" Dinner
The holidays are here and that means cozy get together, warm kitchen, good food, tonnes of baking, alluring aromas, laughing children, toys on the floor and the blood sugar level going for a toss! Last week, I have been on a baking spree which created havoc on my blood sugar. Good sense prevailed this week and I am back on track.
Holidays screams indulgence, but what about some smart indulgence which will not make you regret it later; like my take on a classic Fish and Chips recipe. I was introduced to this English classic at at my Dad's office Christmas party, when I was about ten and has been hooked on to it ever since. It was so different from the regular Bengali fish fry that I was used to. A lot less spicy, may be bland to some, and you could actually taste the real flavor of the fish and the combination of the crispy batter fried fish with salty thick fries and tangy tarter sauce, was a match made in culinary heaven!
However, on the flip side, a Fish and Chips dinner, with a side of Coleslaw and Dinner Roll has approximately 1100 calories, 20gms of Saturated Fats and 94 gms of Carbohydrates. To give a healthy twist, I bake my fish instead of deep frying it. The high-carb potato fries are replaced with crisp and crunchy vegetable sticks like carrots, celery and cucumbers and I make my tarter sauce with Fat free Greek yogurt instead of fatty mayonnaise. You can use a light sour cream or a fat-free mayonnaise in place of Greek Yogurt, but I prefer the taste of the yogurt over the other two. This is how I did it:
Back in India, Kolkata to be specific, all fish fry and recipes using fish fillets use Bhetki Maach (Barramundi or Asian Sea Bass), which has a mild, sweet taste. Here in the US, Swai or Basa comes very close to the taste and flavor of Bhetki Maach and hence my preferred choice for this recipe. However any firm, white fleshed fish like Tilapia, Flounder, Halibut, Cod or Haddock will work too. Wash the fillet in running cold water and pat dry with a kitchen towel and season with Old Bay Seasoning**. If you are a puritan, you might want to use just salt and pepper, but I like more intense flavors. In case, you want an Indian twist, season it with Shaan Fish seasoning or simply with some Garam Masala. For an Asian flavor, try seasoning it with grated ginger, soy sauce and toasted sesame seed oil. You can always play with different flavors. But whatever you season your fish with, the same seasoning has to go in the batter too.
**Old Bay Seasoning is a blend of herbs and spices that is used to season seafood especially crabs and shrimps. The seasoning mix includes mustard, paprika, celery seed, bay leaf, both black and red pepper, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, mace, cardamom, salt, and ginger. In addition to flavoring seafood, the seasoning is often used as a topping on popcorn, salads, eggs, fried chicken, french fries, tater tots, corn on the cob, boiled peanuts and potato chips. More on Wiki.
Make an Assembly line: Place all-purpose flour in a plate. In a shallow bowl whisk an egg with some Greek Yogurt or Sour Cream or Mayo and a teaspoon of Old Bay Seasoning (or any other seasoning you used to season the fish) In the third plate place the bread crumbs. I used Italian bread crumbs. For best results use fresh bread crumbs, they give the fish a better texture. To make fresh bread crumbs, toast 4 thick whole wheat slices, cool them and pulse in the food processor, with some Italian seasoning.
Line a baking tray with aluminium foil and place a cooling rack on it and spray the rack with oil spray. This helps the heat to go around the fish and you do not end up with soggy bottom. Now,
(1) Dredge the fish in the all purpose flour
(2) Coat it with the egg-yogurt batter
(3) Roll it in the breadcrumbs
(4) Place it on the prepared cooling rack and spray the fillets with oil spray to get a nice golden color
Bake it in an 350F oven for 30 minutes. Turn the mode to 'Broil" and broil the fish for a minute to get that golden color and crispness. Keep an eye when you put on the Broil mode. The fish can burn pretty quickly. Serve with my creamy tangy spicy Tartar sauce and crisp vegetable sticks.
For Tarter sauce base I used Fat-free Greek Yogurt because I like the taste and the creaminess of the Greek Yogurt and also it provides me with some extra protein to fill me up. Mix the yogurt with coarse grain mustard, pickled jalapenos, pickled gherkins or capers or olives, green onions, little pickle juice and salt and pepper. Refrigerate for at least half and hour before serving.
I served my fish and tarter sauce with some fresh vegetable sticks instead of greasy calorie laden potato chips. I use crunchy celery, sweet and petite baby carrots, crisp cucumber and peppery radishes. You can also try lightly steamed broccoli or cauliflower and bell peppers in an array of colors. All you need is to cut them in strips or stick and soak them in ice cold water to brighten them up and to make them crisp. Just before serving drain them and pat dry. Do not season them, else they'll turn soggy. Dip them in the tangy tarter sauce and cruncchhhh.... Enjoy!
What I used:
for the Fish:
Fish Fillet - 4 pcs (any firm white-fleshed fish like Tilapia, Flounder, Halibut, Cod or Basa will work. I had used Basa/Swai)
Old Bay Seasoning - 1 tsp plus 1 tsp for seasoning the fish
(if you do not want to use Old Bay feel free to use any Fish Seasoning or just Garam Masala)
All purpose flour - ½ cup
Egg - 1
Greek Yogurt/ Sour Cream/ Mayonnaise - ½ cup
Italian Bread crumbs - 1 cup (in case you want to use fresh bread crumbs, toast 4 thick whole wheat slices, cool them and pulse in the food processor, with some Italian seasoning)
for the spicy Tarter Sauce:
Fat free Greek Yogurt - 1 cup
Coarse Ground Mustard - 1tsp
Pickled Jalapenos - 4-5 rings, minced finely
Pickle Juice - 2 tsp
Dill Pickled Gherkins - 2-3, minced finely
(can use capers or even green olives)
Scallions/ Green Onions - 2-3 very finely chopped
What I did:
for the Fish:
1. Preheat the oven at 350F. Line a baking tray with aluminium foil and place a cooling rack on it and spray the rack with oil spray This helps the heat to go around the fish and you do not end up with soggy bottom.
2. Wash and pat dry the fish fillet and season with old bay seasoning (or any seasoning as per your preference) and pepper.
3. Whisk an egg with Greek yogurt, old bay seasoning, salt and pepper and make a airy batter. You can use sour cream or mayonnaise in place of Greek Yogurt.
4. Make an assembly line: place all purpose flour in a plate, followed by the egg batter in a shallow bowl and finally breadcrumbs again in a shallow plate.
5. Dredge the fish in flour and then coat it with the egg-yogurt batter and finally roll it in the breadcrumbs and place it on the prepared cooling rack.
6. Repeat with the remaining fillet and spray the fillets with oil spray to get a nice golden color.
7. Bake for 30 minutes and then broil for another minute or two. Keep an eye when you put on the Broil mode. The fish can burn pretty quickly. Serve with my homemade spicy Tartar sauce and vegetable sticks.
for the spicy Tarter Sauce:
1. Mix well all the ingredients under "for the spicy Tarter Sauce". Refrigerate for at least half an hour. Bottle the leftover sauce in an airtight glass bottle/jar and use within a week.
This Fish & Stick dinner is not only healthy but just as delicious as your traditional Fish and chips dinner. Not only it is an wonderful dinner option for you and your family, but an excellent way to entertain this holiday season too. You can prep the fish till it is crumb coated. You can refrigerate at this stage for up to a day or freeze it for weeks. The tarter sauce can also be prepared days in advance. Just before your guests arrive, you simply pop it in the oven, chop up the vegetables and then have a perfect dinner ready in no time. You can also use this recipe to make fish fingers and sever as appetizers at your next party.
Enjoy this crispy and juicy Fish & Sticks dinner and have a great holiday season!
Happy Holidays everybody!
This Fish & Stick dinner is about 300 calories per person and it includes the vegetable serving and the tater dip as well. It has about 24gms of carbohydrate and 18 gms of protein and no saturated fats as compared to 1100 calories, 20gms of Saturated Fats and 94 gms of Carbohydrates in a traditional Fish and Chips dinner