Ok, I’m going to jump right into this post by claiming that this is the ultimate summertime sandwich. Yes, I know that burgers are quintessential, and a tomato and basil sandwich is pretty paramount, but to truly manifest crashing waves, sandy toes and sunburned cheeks, these crispy fish sandwiches are where it’s at. Piled with pan-fried filets of flounder (or lemon sole), as well as juicy tomato slices, slivers of avocado, lettuce and a generous smear of herbed mayonnaise, they have the power to transport you to a sunny beach, even if you’re as landlocked as Nebraska.  

Fish sandwiches = vacation

When I was a teenager I vacationed in the Florida Keys with my parents and some family friends (my brothers were since off to college), but the only thing I seem to remember from the trip are the countless fish sandwiches I ate. Grilled, sautéed or deep-fried, they were everywhere, most often eaten in a kitsch-filled restaurant on the beach. My recent cravings for “BEACH” reminded me of those sandwiches, and helped to inspire this recipe (along with, let’s be honest, a fond childhood memory of filet o’fish sandwiches). Instead of a deep-frying the fish, I opted to coat the filets in Panko breadcrumbs (I use gluten-free, but regular Panko works just as well) and pan-fry them until crispy. Let’s talk fish for a minute. You want to seek out really fresh and firm filets of flounder or lemon sole—nothing limp or fishy smelling. We’re lucky to be able to buy fresh, wild fish from our farmer’s market, but if you’re buying your fish from a supermarket, just give it a smell before buying. It should smell like the sea—not fishy. Fresher fish will not only taste better, but it will also hold up better when pan-frying.

Breaded fish

Crispy fish

You can’t serve fried fish sandwiches without a creamy sauce, and these babies are taken to new heights with a simple herbed mayonnaise, which is like a more elegant and stimulating cousin to tartar sauce. They’re further gussied with tomato, avocado and lettuce, creating a super satisfying contrast of flavors and textures.

The process of eating food with one’s fingers is what summertime is all about, so I suggest serving the sandwiches with roasted sweet potato fries or even potato chips if you’re pressed for time. A simple green salad—one that can be nibbled leaf by leaf—also makes for a nice addition. It’s a meal we eat out on our back deck, with some Bob Marley bumping in the background, imagining that the surf is just beyond the trees.

Crispy fish sandwiches

Get the recipe!

Crispy Fish Sandwiches with Avocado, Tomato & Herbed Mayonnaise

Servings 4
Author Nicki Sizemore

Ingredients

Herbed Mayonnaise

  • ½ cup mayonnaise or Vegenaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons drained capers , chopped
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped scallions
  • ¼ teaspoon celery seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • Dash hot sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fish Sandwiches

  • ½ cup corn flour or fine cornmeal
  • 2 eggs , whisked
  • 1 cup regular or gluten-free panko breadcrumbs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound flounder or lemon sole filets
  • ¼ cup sunflower or safflower oil (or another neutral oil)
  • Buns for serving (regular or gluten-free)
  • Tomato slices for serving
  • Avocado slices for serving
  • Lettuce for serving

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the herbed mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Do Ahead: The herbed mayonnaise can be made up to a day in advance and stored in the fridge.
  2. Set up a “dredging station.” Place the cornmeal, whisked eggs and panko breadcrumbs in separate shallow bowls or rimmed plates. Season each with salt and pepper.
  3. Trim the fish fillets into sandwich-sized or slightly smaller pieces (I usually cut them in half, depending on how big they are). Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Dredge the trimmed fish filets in the cornmeal (on both sides), followed by the whisked eggs, followed by the breadcrumbs. Place the breaded filets on a wax- or parchment-lined baking sheet while you heat up your skillet.
  5. Heat the oil in a large, heavy cast iron or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering and hot (you can add a pinch of breadcrumbs to test the oil—they should immediately start to sizzle). Working in batches, fry the fish for about 1-2 minutes per side, or until golden brown on both sides and cooked through.
  6. Spread some of the herbed mayonnaise on 4 buns (I like to spread a thick layer on the bottom bun, and a lighter smear on the top bun, but that’s just me). Pile a couple of pieces of fish on each bottom bun, followed by a tomato slice, a few avocado slices and a leaf or two of lettuce. Crown the sandwiches off with the top buns, then devour. Hello summer.