Cajun Fried Fish

About 30 years ago most Americans thought of catfish as an ugly, bewhiskered, leathery-skinned bottom-feeder known primarily in the American south and fit only for the poor. Then Cajun cooking came along, catfish farming became big business and people from New England to Montana to California knew what they had been missing all those years.

Catfish, the ugly duckling of fish, has become a lovely swan, with people loving the sweet, mild, delicate meat. 

Catfish became so popular in the 1980s that June 25th was declared National Catfish Day in 1987.

So today, to celebrate, have some Cajun Fried Catfish. If you don't eat catfish, this recipe is still awesome and easy. It’s terrific with fresh corn and sliced tomatoes. Great plain but I like it on a Portuguese roll, slathered with tartar sauce too. Southern cooks make hush puppies with catfish. These crispy corn meal puffy fritters are a perfect side dish. Try it if you have extra time.

Cajun Fried Fish

2 pounds grouper, tilapia, etc. or catfish fillets, cut into 3 pieces each

1/2 cup milk

2/3 cup flour

2 large eggs

1 cup corn meal (approximately)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves)

vegetable oil

Place the fish fillets in a pan and pour the milk over them. Let the fish soak for at least 30 minutes. Place the flour in a dish. Beat the eggs in another dish. Combine the corn meal, salt, cayenne pepper, garlic powder and thyme in a third dish. Remove the fish from the milk and dredge the fillets in the flour. Coat the fillets with beaten egg, then dredge the egg-coated fish in the corn meal mixture. Place the fillets on a rack to “air dry” for 15-20 minutes. Heat about 1/2-inch vegetable oil in a large, deep pan. When the oil is hot enough to sizzle a bread crumb, fry the fillet pieces, a few at a time, for 3-4 minutes per side, or until browned and crispy. Drain on paper towels. Makes 4 servings

Hush Puppies

1-1/2 cups corn meal

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 small grated onion

1 large egg

3/4 cup milk

vegetable oil

Combine the corn meal, flour, baking soda, salt and onion in a bowl. Beat the egg with the milk and pour into the corn meal mixture. Heat about 1/2-inch vegetable oil in a large, deep pan. When the oil is hot enough to sizzle a bread crumb, drop about a heaping tablespoon of the corn meal batter into the oil and fry for 2-4 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Makes 4 servings

You could also use the oil you used to fry the catfish.

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