THE WASHINGTON POST – I’m always on the lookout for clever ways to cook fish, so when I stumbled upon the five smart schnitzel recipes in author Donna Hay’s The Fast Five cookbook, I was intrigued by the simplicity of them all but decided to try the fish one first.
Hay, the Australian cookbook author and personality, schnitzels not only fish but also eggplant, mushrooms, chicken and cauliflower with simple techniques.
She creates flavourful breadcrumb coatings that get boosts from what she calls “ingredient heroes”.
For the fish, those ingredients are capers, fresh dill and lemon zest.
The fish fillets are dipped in an egg wash, then placed on a lined baking sheet and covered generously with the breadcrumb mixture, which you press firmly to coat one side.
Hay recommended pressing the breadcrumbs into both sides and flipping the fish, but the fillets I had were fairly thin, so I saw no need to do that.
The result is a thin, crisp, golden fillet, with a coating so tasty that I could eat it by the spoonful. Bonuses: There’s no frying involved, the cleanup is easy and I was sitting down to eat about 30 minutes after I started cooking.
I decided to make the coating again, but as a sprinkle by placing the crumbs and capers in a skillet with a little olive oil and frying them until the crumbs turned golden.
Then I stirred in the fresh dill and zest and generously sprinkled it all atop salmon fillets, giving my simple, ho-hum weeknight meal a needed flavour jolt.
If you try this topping and love it as much as I do, keep it in your back pocket and sprinkle it over other pan-fried fish and shrimp, too.
Hay described the recipes in her cookbook as “shortcuts to deliciousness”. These flavourful breadcrumbs certainly qualify.
CAPER AND LEMON FISH SCHNITZEL
Active time: 25 minutes. Total time: 35 minutes. Four servings
Chopped capers and fresh dill make for a delicious, crispy crust in this baked fish.
For the tastiest results, choose firm-fleshed, fairly thin fillets, such as catfish or snapper.
Thicker fillets take longer to cook and so are not ideal for this recipe. Slip the fish in the oven and, while it bakes, make a light salad or slaw to go with it.
– Four (six-ounce) white-fleshed fish fillets, such as snapper, catfish or tilapia
– Half teaspoon fine salt
– Half teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
– One and a half cups (four ounces) panko or fresh sourdough breadcrumbs
– A quarter cup (half-ounce) fresh dill fronds, minced
– Two tablespoons capers, drained, rinsed and chopped
– Two tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
– One large egg
– One tablespoon water
– Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
– Lemon wedges, for serving
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 475 degrees. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Pat the fish dry and season both sides with the salt and pepper. In a medium shallow bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs, dill, capers and lemon zest until combined. In another medium shallow bowl, whisk the egg with water until well blended.
Dip a fish fillet in the egg wash and lift, allowing the excess to drip off. Place the fish on the prepared baking sheet and cover generously with the breadcrumb mixture, pressing firmly to coat one side. Drizzle generously with oil and repeat with the remaining fillets.
Roast for about 10 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork and the crumbs are golden and crisp. (The cooking time will depend on the thickness of your fish).
Remove from the oven and, using a thin spatula, transfer the fillets to plates. Serve warm, with lemon wedges for squeezing.