I will always remember the fish stick nights of my youth. The smell of instant mashed potatoes would begin to fill the halls, and my head would rise from whatever homework it had sunk into, swimming with dreams of the impending feast. Those dried spuds could only herald one thing — and there they were, adding their glorious briny tang to the potatoes’ rich earthiness: fish sticks in the oven.
Wait, that’s really weird.
Though I love and accept fish from all walks of life, I also recognize that few normal people enjoy fish sticks as much as I do. Quite honestly, the battered bits of (maybe) cod that they freeze for our convenience just aren’t that appetizing when taken on their own.
Thankfully, we do not have to take them on their own, because fish sticks are actually an incredible ingredient once they’ve been undressed. The salt and subtle whitefish can add a whole lot to the right dish, with or without their crispy fried covering. And few things beat sea critters for good nutrient combos — heaps of protein, not too much fat and cancer-fighting antioxidants.
So toss aside your ego and preconceptions for a moment, and dive headfirst into an ocean of glorious taste sensations. You’re about to be a much happier fish than you ever thought possible.
Spicy Fish Soup
A hot and sassy Thai-style fish soup, filled with contrasting flavors and textures.
2 large fish sticks, fully cooked and de-breaded
1 quart (4 cups) chicken stock/broth
1 tsp lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-5 Thai chilies, seeded and diced
2 tbsp Sriracha sauce
1 cup cabbage, shredded
1/2 carrot, chopped into little sticks
Bake the fish sticks according to the instructions on the box, and scrape off the breading. Pour the stock into a saucepan, then add a dash of salt, a little pepper, the garlic, the chilies and the Sriracha. Simmer for 10-20 minutes, then add the fish and cook for another minute or two to heat through, keeping the fish in large chunks. Finally, turn off the heat and toss in the cabbage and carrot for a little crunch. Enjoy!
As with most soups, you can have a little fun with this guy. Replace the chicken stock with veggie stock, fish stock or even water. Replace the lemon juice with lime or any neutral-flavored vinegar like white or cider. Replace the Thai chilies with jalapenos or any other hot pepper, or even hot pepper flakes. The Sriracha (found in the ethnic foods aisle with a rooster on its bottle. Colloquially known as “hot cock”) is pretty key, but other hot sauces can work too. Replace the cabbage and carrot with any other crisp veggie you can add at the end to bump up the texture.
With a few fresh ingredients on a crispy shell, this simple meal will blow your mind.
1 large fish stick, cooked
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 cup cabbage, shredded
1/2 carrot, cut into little sticks
A few sprigs cilantro, minced
A dash of lemon juice
A dash of oil
2 hard taco shells
Bake the fish sticks according to box instructions, keep the breading on. Fill the taco shells with fish first, then the pepper, cabbage, carrot and cilantro. Drizzle in lemon and oil, and serve!
Basically any fresh ingredients can go on a taco if you want ’em there. Add different peppers, veggies, acids (for the lemon) and oil for different flavors. This is a great one to experiment with because it takes so little time, and the fresh flavors all really pop.
Curried Fish Po’ Boy
A contemporary take on the New Orleans classic.
1 fish stick, cooked and breaded
1 tbsp oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tbsp garam masala
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cardamom
1 pinch cinnamon
1 pinch allspice
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 tbsp orange juice
1 loaf crusty French bread (making your own is great, see College Kitchen: Rise Above)
Cook the fish stick according to maker’s instructions, set aside. Heat the oil in a small sauce pan, add the garlic and ginger and cook for a minute or two until fragrant. Add the spices and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes until toasty and delicious smelling. Turn the heat down and add the milk and coconut milk. Bring the mixture to a simmer (do not boil!) and cook to reduce for a few minutes. Finally, add the orange juice and then the fish sticks in chunks, tossing around to coat thoroughly. Cut the bread open along its length, and layer with spinach. Spoon the curried fish onto the spinach and server.
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