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A Lenten meal the kids will love

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Religious Christians make the commitment to avoid meat in their Friday meals for the duration of Lent, signifying a sacrifice for their faith that recalls the ultimate sacrifice Jesus Christ made during the crucifixion. 

Vegetables and pasta dishes are a staple of the Lenten season, and seafood also serves as a popular substitute for meats and poultry. As parents of picky eaters can attest, encouraging children, particularly toddlers or early grade-schoolers, to dig into a seafood meal can be a struggle. However, fish sticks can make a fish dinner more attractive to youngsters. You don’t need to buy the frozen variety at the store. This recipe for “Fish Sticks with Fries and Tartar Sauce” from “Danielle Walker’s Eat What You Love” (Ten Speed Press) is a crunchy, homemade alternative.

Fish Sticks with Fries and Tartar Sauce

Makes 12

Tartar Sauce

1⁄2 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon minced cornichons (gherkin pickles)

1 tablespoon chopped capers

1 teaspoon champagne vinegar

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon coarse-grain mustard

1 teaspoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1⁄8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Fries

1 large parsnip, peeled

1 white-fleshed sweet potato (such as Hannah), scrubbed but unpeeled

3 tablespoons avocado oil

Kosher salt

Fish sticks

1 pound haddock or cod fillets

4 ounces plantain chips

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 egg whites, beaten until frothy

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 450 F.

To make the tartar sauce, in a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, cornichons, capers, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, parsley, and pepper. Place in the refrigerator to chill while you make the fries and fish sticks, or up to three days.

To make the fries, cut the parsnip and sweet potato into matchstick fries. In a bowl, toss the vegetables with the oil. Spread in a single layer — not touching — on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, turning once during baking, until browned.

To make the fish sticks, meanwhile, cut the haddock into 3-by-1⁄2-inch strips. Place a wire rack on top of a clean kitchen towel and brush the rack lightly with avocado oil.

In a food processor, or using a mortar and pestle, pulse the plantain chips a few times until they resemble coarse sand. Pour the ground chips into a shallow bowl and combine with 1⁄2 teaspoon salt and 1⁄4 teaspoon pepper. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg whites and mustard.

Pat the fish dry with paper towels and season generously with 3⁄4 teaspoon sea salt and 1⁄4 teaspoon pepper. One at a time, dip the fish strips into the egg mixture and shake gently, allowing any excess to drip back into the bowl, then dip the fish into the plantain chip mixture, turning to coat each strip and shaking off any excess. Place the fish strips on the prepared wire rack.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and scoot the fries over to one side. Position the rack with the fish sticks on the baking sheet and return to the oven. Bake the fish and fries together for 10 to 12 minutes, until the fish is crisp and cooked through. Season the fries generously with the kosher salt. Serve the fish sticks and fries immediately with the tartar sauce on the side. 

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