I always tell Josh that when he’s gone (because we took an internet test once and it says I will outlive him by about 10 years after we’re 70, and you know that’s got to be true) that I am going to move down to Mississippi, get a nice Muumuu (ok, who else is excited by all those letter multiples a muumuu in Mississippi?!!! yesssss), drink mint juleps and open up a Fish Fry.
As a kid, catfish was the fish fry fish in my house (yes, we had sauteed whole trout a lot – brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout – our area was such a great trout habitat eventually Orvis bought half the county for trout farming), but for a good fry – catfish was king. With corn on the cob, potato salad, three-bean salad (does anyone even eat yellow wax beans anymore?), pickles, and someone – there’s always someone – who will bring some jell-o monstrosity (or an old lady sweet salad like Waldorf, Ambrosia, or some strange combination of the three like my Aunt Mayme). Visiting was a thing – there was no specific organization to it, it just sort of happened – but sometimes our house, sometimes Grandpa’s, sometimes the summer people at camp, other family, other friends…on early mornings in the weekend the men would go fishing, come back with lots of catfish.
This is my go-to fish fry recipe, though up here in Maine I tend to use a lot more cod and haddock, but sometimes I’m able to get some catfish…mmmm, catfish.
Serves 4 with Summer sides
1.5 – 2lbs. firm fleshed fish, skinned and fileted, cut into 2x4ish” chunks
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
2 cups medium to fine NGMO Cornmeal (not too coarse)
2 tsp Sea Salt
2 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Chili or Cayenne Powder (depending on how spicy you want it)
1 tsp ground Black Pepper
2 cups Buttermilk or Whey (or even just Milk with a Tbsp yogurt mixed in)
Oil for frying, = about 1″ in wide frying pan (cast iron skillet is best)
Heat oil in skillet over Med-High heat (you’ll want the oil to come up about halfway on the fish). Soak cut filets in Buttermilk/Whey/Milk mixture for about 20 min – meanwhile mix dry ingredients together in a wide shallow bowl (or a 9×9 baking dish works well, too, or pie plate). To test oil readiness, dip finger in mix mixture – then dry mixture, drop bit of batter into oil – if it sizzles and rises to top after 1 min, you are ready for frying (if it browns quickly, turn stovetop down to Med, remove pan from heat for a minute or two, try again).
When oil is ready, lay ‘milked’ filets into dry ingredients, cover and press a bit of batter on all sides (you might have to line up a few to make this next bit easier), dip again into milky mixture and re-batter with dry ingredients (it might look like all your first battering goes into the milk but trust me, it doesn’t). Gently put battered fish into frying oil, giving each filet a minute to cook before adding next (keep temperature even). By the time you are done adding filets, it should probably be time to flip the first filet – depending on thickness of filet, should only take 3-5 min. Continue batches as necessary (I generally get 2 batches, cooking 5-6 filets in pan at once).
Serve with tartar sauce (we chop Bread&Butter pickles into Mayo), or spicy Mayo, or Garlic Aioli if you are feeling decadent. These days I prefer German or vinegar based/red Potato Salad with fresh peas and fresh herbs or last week’s Lemon Kale Salad.
Happy Summer Eating!