Everyone has a guilty food pleasure. You might think mine would be some chocolate caramel brownies (the creation of a friend who is a talented baker), or Southern pecan pie (my favorite dessert growing up), or maybe a millefeuille (that incredible French puff pastry layered with a cream filling) from a patisserie in Paris, but you would be wrong! It’s a McDonald’s filet-o-fish sandwich—a golden fried fillet of white fish topped with a slice of (processed) cheese and a dollop of tartar sauce, all enclosed in a soft white bun. For years, I’ve ordered this sandwich along with a bag of fries instead of their burgers. Recently though, due to warnings of a higher Covid 19 spread in our area, I’ve had to forego my “Mcdulgence,” and resort to making the sandwich in my own kitchen.
For my adaptation, I used fresh cod fillets, cut into sandwich size 4-ounce portions. Coated with flour, then dipped into beaten egg, and finally dusted with panko crumbs, they are quickly fried in canola oil until golden and crisp. I replaced the cheese with crispy salad greens and made my own tartar sauce. The latter is prepared in minutes with good purchased mayo to which capers, parsley, and chopped green onion are added. Dijon mustard, fresh lemon juice, and a hint of cayenne round out the accents. The following recipe is for two sandwiches, but can easily be doubled to serve more.
Over the past few weeks I’ve made these special fish sandwiches several times. My spouse, who is not a fan of seafood, loved them as did my assistant who helped create the recipe. We all agree that this homemade version definitely rivals the original at the Golden Arches. I hope you’ll like it too!
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Crispy Fish Sandwiches with Homemade Tartar Sauce
1/2 cup good quality purchased mayonnaise, such a Hellman’s
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons capers, drained and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons green onions, chopped (Use light green parts only)
4 teaspoons chopped flat leaf parsley
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Two pinches cayenne pepper
2 cod fillets (or other firm white fish such as haddock or hake), each about 4 ounces and 1/2 inch thick
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons flour
1 large egg
2/3 cup panko crumbs
Canola oil for frying fish
2 good quality hamburger buns, either white or whole wheat
Torn lettuce leaves, especially crispy lettuce such as iceberg, or Boston or red or green leaf lettuces (See market note)
Garnishes: Dill pickles, potato chips, or tortilla chips
1.For the tartar sauce, place mayonnaise and mustard in a medium bowl and whisk to blend. Sir in capers, green onions, parsley, and lemon juice. Season with two pinches cayenne pepper. (Tartar sauce can be prepared 3 hours ahead; cover and refrigerate.)
2.When ready to prepare the sandwiches, pat the fish fillets dry with paper towels. Season fish generously with salt and pepper.
3.Spread the flour on one dinner plate and the panko crumbs on another. Break egg into a shallow bowl and beat lightly to blend. One at a time, dredge a fish fillet in flour, shaking off excess, Then coat evenly in egg, letting excess drip back into the bowl. Finally, coat with panko crumbs, pressing to help them adhere. Transfer fish to a plate.
4.Heat enough oil to coat generously the bottom of a medium, heavy skillet set over medium heat. When hot add the fish and cook until golden and crisp, about 3 to 4 minutes per side, adding more oil if needed. Watch carefully. Transfer fried fish to a plate or platter lined with paper towels. Salt fish lightly.
5.To assemble, spread about 1/2 tablespoon of the tartar sauce on bottom half of a bun. Top bun with some salad greens, then with a fish fillet. a tablespoon more of tartar sauce, and with the top bun. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Pass extra sauce in a small bowl. Makes 2 sandwiches.
Market note: I especially like to use Little Leaf Farm’s crispy baby green lettuce in this sandwich. Torn iceberg, Boston, or red or green leaf lettuce will also work.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2021