Thursday, March 6, 2008

There's No Place Like Home Pt. 3

This is my third post about my favorites from home. There are the hashed browns from Little Rock and the beignets from New Orleans. Now for my favorite: fried catfish. Fried catfish is something my best friends and I made often. Nataki and Shana worked some out around Christmas. In my family, it was a Friday night regular when I was younger, although we aren't Catholic. I'm sure we ate it Saturday nights too, but I once I became old enough to fry, I rocked this many a Friday night while my brother and I watched Miami Vice!

If you are from Little Rock, you eat your fried catfish one of two ways: with hot sauce and mustard or with hot sauce and tomato relish. I was in Chicago in the late 90s at a church catfish supper. When I asked for mustard, someone said, "You must be from Arkansas." I was then immediately introduced to church members who had Arkansas roots.

I know mustard sounds funny, but many restaurants are now making mustard-thyme catfish. They use mustard as the wet ingredient when dredging. People tend to use too much thyme. I also think that the mustard loses some of its flavor when it's fried.

Tomato relish deserves a place in the regional foods hall of fame. I can only find it in Little Rock. It's made with green tomatoes and onion. It's sweet and sometimes a little hot too. Served ice cold with some hot fried catfish? Man, please. There are no words.

Let's fry. I like catfish nuggets better than I like the whole fillets. Trader Joe's didn't have either and Whole Foods had fillets. No problem, I just cut up the fillet. I rinsed it and patted it dry first.

This is when you break out the dry-wet-dry breading station, just like for fried chicken. I'm going with flour, milk and egg for the wet and cornmeal. Season all three pans well. Taste and make sure the coatings taste good.

Dip the fish in the coatings. Unlike with chicken, I am not a fan of double-dipping here; the coating becomes too thick for the fish.

Now, head to some hot grease. I fry in canola oil. If you don't use a thermometer for your oil, toss a pinch of cornmeal into the oil and watch how it fries. If it burns to a crisp, the oil is too hot. If it sinks to the bottom of the pan and does nothing, the oil isn't hot enough. Once your temp is right, add the fish. Because I'm using small pieces and I'm cooking for one, I'm using an 8" cast iron skillet. This also keeps me from using a lot of oil, so I won't have a ton to dispose of. (I don't reuse oil that has been used for fish.) Cook for a few minutes on each side. I can't give you a specific time. The cornmeal will take on a little color when cooked.

Moving on. Once the fish is done, let it rest on paper towels. Secure your hot sauce and mustard or, if you're really blessed, hot sauce and tomato relish. Dig in!

Tools of the trade:

1 comment:

Jessy and her dog Winnie said...

That looks really good! Ive never fried anything before, it seems kinda dangerous, I would be afraid to get burnt. lol