Oven-“Fried” Fish Fillets


All the crunch without all the work.
TIME 25 minutes
MAKES 4 servings
4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter, melted, or olive oil
1½ pounds thick fish fillets
1½ cups milk, buttermilk, or yogurt
2 cups bread crumbs, preferably fresh, for dredging
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 lemons, quartered, for serving


Method
1 Heat the oven to 450°F with a rack in the top third. Smear half of the butter on a rimmed baking sheet. While the oven heats, cut the fillets crosswise into 4 or 8 manageable pieces and put them in a large bowl with the milk; let them soak for a few minutes. Put the bread crumbs on a plate and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

2 When the oven is hot, remove the fish from the milk and let some of the liquid drip off. While the fillets are still wet from the milk, dredge them on both sides in the bread crumbs, pressing them gently into the fish, then shaking off any excess. Transfer the fillets to the prepared pan and drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons butter over the fish.

3 Put the baking sheet in the oven and bake until the fish is crisp on the outside and tender and opaque on the inside, but not dry, 8 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Serve immediately with the lemon wedges.

Variations
  • Panfried Fish Fillets: Even crispier. Put half of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, add some of the fish pieces without overcrowding (you’ll probably need to work in batches) and cook, turning once, until both sides are golden and crisp and the inside is opaque, 8 to 15 minutes total. Repeat, adding more fat to the pan as necessary; keep cooked fillets warm in a 200°F oven.
  • Cornmeal-Crusted Oven-“Fried” Fish Fillets: Use cornmeal or a combination of half cornmeal and half all-purpose flour instead of the bread crumbs.
  • Chile-Lime Oven-“Fried” Fish Fillets: Skip the milk and the bread crumbs. In Step 1, rub the fillets all over with the juice of 1 lime and combine1 cup allpurpose flour with 1 tablespoon chili powder and the salt and pepper in a shallow plate. In Step 2, dredge the fillets in the chili-spiked flour and continue with the recipe. Serve with lime wedges.

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