(Becky, the Mama)
As the story in our family goes, one day my father took my little brother David and my little sister Rachel out to the bank of a lake to cast a line and do a little fishing. If you’ve ever taken children out fishing, you know you do very little ACTUAL fishing. It’s mostly about putting on lost bait and untangling lines. David was probably about eight at the time, and Rachel about age five. To this day, my sister is an “observer” and “information gatherer.” If you saw Friday’s post you know my sister also grew up to write humor, but where I tell stories (often about the messes I seem to get in with uncanny regularity), Rachel is more Seinfield-like, finding humor in everyday quirky observations.
Anyway, she keenly observed my brother cast line after line with a ball of catfish bait attached to the hook. We called this horrid, sticky black concoction, “stink bait,” and to this day I don’t think I’ve smelled anything worse in my life, including my teenage sons’ gym socks. Apparently, however, catfish adore it. My father and brother would each cast their lines, and when they reeled them in, it would come back empty — the bait gone, but no fish — over and over and over again. Rachel took all this in, and about the fifth time the bait disappeared she shook her head slowly back and forth, and dryly concluded, “I know a catfish who’s gonna be sick.” To this day we chuckle knowing she assumed one fish and one fish only consuming all that bait. From then on when anyone in our family declared they were eating too much and feeling “stuffed,” someone would pipe up with, “I know a catfish who’s gonna be sick.”
If, however, you are lucky enough to be better at catching catfish than feeding them, then…boy, do I have a recipe for you! And if you don’t have access to a pond or lake, no worries. It is easy to find good fresh farm-fed catfish in larger supermarkets and most of it has never been frozen. This easy recipe turns out a fish that is crunchy, slightly spicy with a great lime tang on the outside, moist and flakey on the inside. This is a slight twist on a southern favorite that is wonderful with a side of coleslaw and some oven-broiled sliced potatoes. (Recipe for these potatoes coming up this week!)
NOTE: Rachel and I are staring at the final months before a book deadline, and in order to have time to write it, we’re going to begin posting this food blog three days a week instead of five. Typically this will be Monday, Wed, and Saturday.
Chili Lime Southern-Style Catfish
4 medium sized catfish fillets
1 c. cornmeal
1 t. grill seasoning (or 1/2 t. salt 1/4 t. pepper and 1/4 t. garlic powder)
1 t. Tajins chili-lime spice (If you don’t have this, substitute 1/2 t. ground red pepper and zest of one lime)
1 fresh lime, cut in half
1/2 cup healthy oil — I like a combination of coconut and olive oil (to equal about 1/4 inch in your pan of choice)
Heat oil in iron skillet until it is sizzling hot, on medium high. Gently rinse fish fillets with fresh water and pat dry. Squeeze a little fresh lime juice over all the fillets, both sides. Then sprinkle both sides of fillets with some good sea salt. Pour cornmeal on a plate or shallow wide bowl and mix in the grill seasoning and chili lime spice. Place fillets, one at a time, in cornmeal mixture pressing the fish into it until it is lightly coated all over.
Using tongs, lay each fillet into the sizzling oil. Let cook until the bottom is golden brown and crisp, then turn over and cook the other side. Don’t crowd the pan too much, cook in batches.
When done, remove to a paper towel and let any of the extra oil drain off. Test a bite to see if it needs more seasoning and if so sprinkle with additional Tejon or sea salt while it is still hot. Serve with tarter sauce or fresh lemon or lime, or cocktail sauce.
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The Title: Chili Lime Southern-Style Catfish
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