Friday, November 2, 2012

Paleo Indulgences's Fish Sticks

I like entering contests.  If you have any of the big paleo names in your social networking feeds, you know that every week there seems to be a new contest out there.  I recently entered a contest through Tammy Credicott's site, where one of the prizes was an autographed copy of her new cookbook: Paleo Indulgences: Healthy Gluten-Free Recipes to Satisfy Your Primal Cravings.  Say that three times fast.  When I received Tammy's email saying I had one a copy of the book, I couldn't believe I had finally won something!  Little did she know she was giving this little site one more recipe resource.

As I'm working on some body composition goals, much of her beautiful book is off limits to me right now, but decided to give her fish stick recipe a try.

First, I gathered my ingredients.

I then cut my fish into sticks.  The recipe doesn't give any guidance on how to cut up the fish, so I thought about this for a minute.  If I made my cuts perpendicular to the fillet, they would fall apart at the natural middle split of the fillet.  But it really didn't make sense to cut them parallel either.  I went with perpendicular.  Maybe that was a mistake.

I also decided to make a double recipe of the "breading."  I knew from my experience making fried chicken that the worst thing when breading meats is to run out of the breading mix.

I used my mini chopper to grind up my macadamia nuts and put them in a large bowl.

I added some tropical traditions shredded coconut to the bowl and then the rest of the spices.

I mixed up the "breading" mixture and started to coat all of my fish.  Because there is no liquid (e.g. eggs) used to help hold the breading to the fish, you do have to press it on there and be very careful with your handling of the fish or you'll knock off all the breading you just pressed on.

Doubling the breading mixture was not needed.  I had more than half left after coating my fish.  

The recipe does not give a measure of oil to use to fry the fish.  I used a 12 inch skillet and used 1.5 cups of oil.  This amount seemed to come up about half way the depth of my fish sticks.  I used my baking sheet with rack with paper toweling as a draining station next to my pan. 

Once my oil was heated, I started frying. Note how pretty the oil looked for this first batch.  

Here is my first batch after frying.  These fell apart pretty easily and other than the nice golden brown color didn't look very pretty.    

I was trying to be very careful, but these sticks were hard to keep breaded and together.

By the last batch, I had a lot of breading in the oil.  I did try to remove some as I went through my four batches of fish.  

Some of my later batches looked a little better than the first.  

Here are the best looking sticks.  I wasn't completely upset by this as I know the store bought versions are probably pressed Frankenfish of some kind with all sorts of binders to keep them pretty.

Accessibility and Cost of Ingredients:  You should be able to find everything you need for this recipe at the big box grocery store.  The recipe says to use a "firm" white fish.  When I went to the grocery store that adjective did not make sense to the guy at the fish counter.    Based on what they had, I decided upon cod.  For some reason I thought that I'd seen somewhere that fish sticks were made from cod.  The fresh cod that I used was 7.99/pound.

The Tropical Traditions shredded coconut I used was much finer in texture than the shredded coconut I'm used to seeing in the store.  I think this was a good thing as it made the breading more uniform/smooth.  If you get some at the store, I'd suggest grinding it down a bit in your mini chopper to make it finer.

Preparation/Cook Time:  It took me  20 minutes to prepare the fish stick coating and then coat 2 pounds of fish.  It then took me  me 24 minutes to fry all of the fish (4 batches/6 minutes each).

Clean up:  Goodness, I need to get a splatter guard for frying!  Here is the mess that was my stove top after frying all of my fish.

Much of that is oil that dripped as I transferred the fish from the pan to my draining rack.  If I had been more careful, I guess there would have been less mess, but I was focusing more on not burning the fish and trying to keep them from falling apart.  Everything except my knife and pot could go in the dishwasher.

The Paleo Review:  Thumbs Up!  Despite the fact that my fish sticks didn't turn out as pretty as I would have liked, they tasted awesome!  They were far better than any store bought fish stick I ever remember tasting.  I whipped up a batch of Paleo Comfort Foods Tartar Sauce and Food Lovers Primal Palate Cocktail Sauce to go with the sticks (reviews will be posted for both soon).  Sadly, there were no leftovers once my dinner guest and I finished our meal.

I wonder how these would work out if I dipped the fish in egg first.  I might try that on a few the next time I make these.  I'll be curious to see if I have an easier time at keeping them together now that I've made them once. I will certainly use this breading for whole fish fillets in the future.

Post Script:  As this recipe calls for a non-stick pan, I wanted to use this opportunity to talk about non-stick pans and give my experience with a few brands of PFOA/PFOS free cookware.  I used to have a very nice set of Calphalon non-stick pans and I gave them away to goodwill after learning the health risks associated with their use.  You can do your own research and decide if you are concerned about this or not.

Other that a few specialty traditional non-stick pans, I have switched to using ceramic coated non-stick cookware that is PFOA/PFOS free.  I now have a mix of brands and am forming opinions about them.  Right now I have 2 Scanpan fry pans, Bialetti Aeternum 12-Inch Covered Deep Saute pan, and a set of Cuisinart Green Gourmet pans.  I also have an old fashioned reliable lodge 10" cast iron skillet.

Out of all of these pans, the Scanpans are my favorite.  They are also the most expensive out of all the pans I have.  It's just not fair how that's always the case when I like something.  Fried eggs just roll out of these pans without any fat added to the pan.  You can use metal utensils in these pans if you wish. So far, they are magical!

I have had the Bialetti pan for a few months and it is my most used pan.  Its big enough for me to make large batches of veggies and has a lid so I can steam saute in it.  I only use nylon or wood utensils in it but its developed a few scratches in the cooking surface.  So far the scratches have not negatively impacted the performance of this pan which, so far, has been excellent.  I've thought about getting a second one of these for my weekend cooking marathons, but have decided to wait and save for a Scanpan 12 inch skillet with lid.  One day the Scanpan fairy will visit my house, I'm sure of it.

I DO NOT RECOMMEND PURCHASING ANY CUISINART GREEN GOURMET COOKWARE!!!!!  Sorry, was I yelling?  I purchased a 10 piece set of these pans as well as a 12 inch fry pan.  When I first got them, they worked great, but after a few months, they lost all of their non-stick properties.  The instructions that came with them recommended seasoning them as you would cast iron, so I did that, and the oil basically caked on to the pan and formed a sticky mess that could not be removed.  I contacted Cuisinart about this.

Here is the real reason why I do not recommend these pans, the solution offered by Cuisinart customer service involved me mailing the pan to Cuisinart at my own expense for them to "evaluate" the pan.  If they decided it was defective, they would then send me a new pan at my expense.  Note that my sending the pan to them guaranteed nothing with respect to the problem being solved.  For about the cost of the pan, I could send it across the country and not be guaranteed a replacement pan.  This is not quality customer service to me.

Additionally, after using the other pans in the set, I've noticed the coating on these pans chips very easily.  I have only used nylon or wood utensils in these pans.  Do not waste your money on Cuisinart Green Gourmet pans.