I love a deep-fried, puffy-battered fish sandwich, with a tempura-like coating, but I’m not doing that at home. That’s for an indulgent summer seafood shack lunch, or if you’re lucky enough to find yourself in a British pub.
But a great, pan-fried piece of fish can be yours with much less work, and significantly less oil. One time to do it, and stat, is when you have Alaskan halibut. It’s worth seeking out — sweet and delicate, with white, firm, flaky flesh. It keeps its shape nicely even as you flip it in the pan. One-quarter inch of oil will get you a great crust, and when that crispy fish is nestled in a roll with lettuce, tomato and tartar sauce, you will feel like summer has really arrived.
You could certainly just go out and buy some prepared tartar sauce if you’re in a hurry, but a homemade tartar sauce is a bit of a revelation, and very simple to make. If you don’t have cornichons, you can substitute jarred relish.
Halibut Fried Fish Sandwich with Lemon Basil Tartar Sauce
Makes 4 sandwiches
Start to finish: 25 minutes
Lemon Basil Tartar Sauce
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons minced cornichons (baby pickles)
2 tablespoons minced scallions
1 tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed, then minced
2 teaspoons coarse Dijon or Creole mustard
1 tablespoon minced basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
Halibut Fried Fish Sandwiches
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1 cup panko bread crumbs
4 (6 -ounce) pieces halibut
vegetable oil for pan frying (about ½ cup)
4 potato rolls
Several pieces of leaf or romaine lettuce, torn to fit the rolls
1 ripe tomato, sliced
Lemon wedges for serving
Preheat the oven to broil.
Make the tartar sauce. In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, cornichons, scallions, capers, mustard, basil, parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Have all of the sandwich rolls and toppings ready to go so that when the fish is cooked, you can assemble the sandwiches right away.
In a shallow wide bowl, mix the flour with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. In another shallow wide bowl, beat the egg with the milk and the hot sauce. Place the panko bread crumbs in a third shallow wide bowl.
Heat enough oil to come up 1/4-inch high in a large skillet over medium high heat. While the oil is heating, dredge each piece of fish first in the flour, shaking off any excess, then in the milk mixture, allowing any excess to drip back into the bowl, and then finally dredge the fish in the bread crumbs. Fry the fish in the oil for about 4 minutes on each side until the fish is golden brown and cooked through. Remove it with a slotted spatula and place on a paper towel-lined plate or surface to drain for a minute.
While the fish is cooking, broil the buns cut side up for just a minute until lightly browned. Place a piece of cooked fish on the bottom half of each roll, and top with a spoonful of the tartar sauce. Top with the lettuce and tomato, and then with the second half of the roll. Serve immediately, with the lemon wedges.
Katie Workman has written two cookbooks focused on easy, family-friendly cooking, “Dinner Solved!” and “The Mom 100 Cookbook.”