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Cooks' Exchange: Coating ideas to add crunch

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There are many things to remember when October arrives that carry me back to grade school days when I learned for the first time that Italian-born Christopher Columbus with his three ships, the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria, arrived in America in 1492.

Through the many years that followed learning more about Columbus, I continued to celebrate his voyage in a rather innocent fashion and in my own way. Imagine my surprise to learn later that Italian-born Amerigo Vespucci followed the unexpected route of Columbus in 1497 and it was Vespucci’s first name that was given to the country we love.

In two more days, on Oct. 12 the anniversary of Columbus’ arrival, I will celebrate Columbus Day with great pride and in my own way just as I have my entire life. And now, if you are interested, grab a history book to learn more about the rest of the story.

With food in mind, October becomes a delicious adventure to discover good tastes in the warmth of a kitchen. When Lisa Frohmader requested coatings for baked recipes, the response was almost immediate. Sherie Sasso described the exceptional fish fillets her friends, the Eberts, share with her and an excellent recipe she tweaked for the fillets to become very crispy, almost like they were fried, but without the oil.

Crispy fish fillets

Fish fillets of perch, bluegill or walleye

½ cup flour

½ cup milk

2 eggs, slightly beaten

½ cup of panko bread crumbs

½ cup instant mashed potato flakes (see: Note)

1/3 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease a baking sheet (see: Note)

Place flour, milk, and eggs in separate bowls. Combine panko bread crumbs, mashed potato flakes, and Parmesan cheese in another bowl. Dredge fillets in flour, then dip in milk, then egg, then press into panko mixture. Be sure to coat fillets completely. Place onto baking sheet and bake until the fish is opaque in the center and flakes easily with a fork, about 15-20 minutes.

Notes: Using flavored mashed potato flakes (garlic, cheese, etc.) changes the flavor of the breading. Be sure to place fish on a rack inside the baking sheet so both sides are equally crispy.

Another response arrived from a reader who states that this is one of her favorites from a cookbook given to her by her second grade teacher many years ago for having perfect attendance that year.

Golden Parmesan chicken

1 ¼ cups grated Parmesan cheese

¼ teaspoon pepper

3 pounds of chicken, cut into pieces

1/3 cup butter, melted

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Grease 9x13 inch baking pan (or line with non-stick foil). Mix cheese and pepper. Dip chicken pieces into butter to coat with cheese mixture. Arrange chicken, skin side down in pan. Pour remaining butter over chicken. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Turn chicken skin side up and bake an additional 20 minutes or until cooked thoroughly.

Do you remember the deep fried French toast served many years ago at Marc’s Big Boy Restaurant? I do and made sure to stop by once a week for the toast treat of a lifetime.

When Jim Hansen wrote with memories about Marc’s Big Boy French toast, chocolate icebox pie and a sandwich they called “The Swiss Miss,” he asked for my help in locating the recipes but I haven’t been successful yet. However here are a few possibilities for the French toast, the first recipe arriving from “The Recipe Link” mentioning Lisa, in Ontario, Canada, back in 2004.

Deep fried French toast

2 eggs

1/3 cup milk

¼ teaspoon salt

4 slices of bread 1-inch thick

Maple syrup


Fruit syrup

Preheat oil in the deep fryer. Beat eggs with the milk and salt in a shallow dish. Trim crusts from the bread. Dip bread, one slice at a time, into egg mixture. Let stand for a few seconds. Turn bread and repeat on the other side. Use a slotted spoon or fryer basket to lower bread into the deep fryer. Fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Drain. Serve hot with maple or fruit syrup or honey.

When I opened my Presto Deep Fry cookbook, it included the same recipe with these instructions including mention of Presto’s mini-fryer.

In shallow dish, beat eggs with milk and salt. Trim crusts from bread, cut slices in half if necessary to fit mini-fryer. Dip into egg mixture. Let stand a few second. Turn bread and repeat for other side. With slotted spoon or mini-basket, carefully lower bread into hot oil or shortening in mini-fryer. Fry about 2 minutes until golden brown. Drain. Serve hot with maple syrup, honey or fruit-flavored syrup. Good with sausage links or sliced ham. Makes 4 slices French toast.

If you happen to have a recipe for chocolate icebox pie or The Swiss Miss sandwich, let me know.

October’s generous supply of freshly picked apples also reminds us of favorite apple recipes and another childhood memory that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” which should be taken more seriously than it does.

I’ve also learned that man had been munching on apples for about 450,000 years. When colonists arrived in America, four varieties of wild crab apples were found. Later, French, Dutch, German, and English colonists brought with them seeds from their homes and in 1625, the first apple orchard was planted in Boston.

Here is another favorite recipe shared by Donna Brooks, Baraboo, from her own cookbook, “Home Cookin’.”

Bailey’s apple goodie

8 large apples, peeled and sliced

1 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup quick oatmeal

1 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup flour

1/4 cup melted butter

Place sliced and peeled apples in a buttered 9x13-inch baking pan. Sprinkle with white sugar and cinnamon. Mix oatmeal, brown sugar, baking soda, flour and butter until crumbly and place on apples; bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for an hour or so, until done. Brooks describes this as being “very good with whipped or ice cream.”

Recent requests: Favorite apple recipes, a “jail house” sugar cookie recipe that appeared in the paper during the 1960s.

Also, when certain requests arrive for recipes once enjoyed at restaurants no longer in business, my fingers are crossed that a former owner or kitchen employee might be able to help out … in this case for the stuffed squash from the Bittersweet Restaurant on State Street many years ago. Other requests include two pasta sauces for the burnt butter and cheese sauce and the clam sauce from the old Cobblestone Station on East Washington Avenue, and the white chicken gumbo from da’Cajun Way on Monroe Street. Can you help?

Contact the Cooks’ Exchange in care of the Wisconsin State Journal, P.O. Box 8058, Madison, WI, 53708 or by email at


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