There is a definite dearth of fresh seafood in Colorado so I have been going a little crazy over the selection of affordable, fresh seafood here in Hawaii. Â As I tried to think of dishes that use seafood and would fit the format of this blog, one childhood classic came to mind: Â Fish Sticks! Â Fish sticks are most often found in the freezer section or on the kids menu at chain restaurants but I wondered if there was a healthier, tastier, homemade alternative to the frozen favorite. Â Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the frozen version; they can be quite tasty and are definitely a convenient meal choice when feeding picky kids but I was looking for a fresher, more grown up version that you could actually serve to adults. Â Here is the recipe I ended up using for my comparison, inspired by a recipe found inÂ Everyday Food Magazine:
Tilapia Fish Sticks
Makes about 32 fish sticks, 4 servings
1 1/2 pounds tilapia filet, cut into 3 inch strips
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 Tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
2 Tablespoons olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Â Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Â Place the panko in a shallow dish and add the Old Bay seasoning and olive oil, mixing well to combine.
2. Â Break the egg into another shallow dish and beat in a few dashes of salt and pepper.
3. Â Dip the strips of tilapia into the egg and then into the panko mixture, pressing the panko on firmly so that it sticks to the fish. Â Place the sticks on a baking sheet lined with foil. Â Once all the fish has been dipped, bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown, rotating the pan halfway through.
4. Â Serve with fresh lemon wedges, tartar sauce or cocktail sauce, or all three!
I bought a box of Gorton’s breaded fish sticks to compare to the homemade batch because I think Gorton’s are the tastiest frozen fish sticks I’ve had and the breaded variety seemed similar to this recipe. Â The results of the comparison were kind of inconclusive. Â We all agreed that the fish in the homemade sticks tasted fresher and had a better texture while the Gorton’s sticks had a very strong “fishy” taste and a bit of a mushy texture. The difference in texture was easily explained by the phrase “made with minced fish” on the box of frozen fish sticks; Â whole fish is infinitely preferable to “minced”. Â The coating, however, was another matter. Â Gorton’s coating is nice and crunchy and had, according to one taste tester, a pleasant “buttery” flavor. Â The homemade coating was good, but not quite as crunchy or flavorful as Gorton’s. Â Maybe I should add some salt to the panko coating or use melted butter in place of olive oil. Â The difference in price was the most surprising part of this comparison to me. Â The homemade fish sticks were actually a bit cheaper to make than the frozen! Â I was anticipating that the frozen sticks would be way cheaper so this was a nice surprise. Â The time difference might be a factor for some people as the homemade fish sticks took twice as long to make as the frozen, but 35 minutes is still a pretty fast dinner.
Bottom Line: The convenience and extra crunchy coating of frozen fish sticks make them the perennial favorite when you need a fast meal for children. Â Homemade fish sticks, however, were a cheaper, fresher tasting alternative that you could easily serve at a casual dinner for adults or children alike.
Tilapia Fish Sticks Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Gorton’s Frozen Breaded Fish Sticks
Cost: Â $10.64 Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Cost: Â $13.18
Time: Â 35 minutes Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Time: Â 15 minutes