Go Fish!

Pairing fried catfish and hushpuppies makes for a delicious summer meal.

The summer months are a great time to enjoy the crunchy goodness of fried catfish with the traditional side of hushpuppies. It is a match made in heaven, one that’s sealed with the crunchy texture of fried cornmeal. I trim the darker fat from the catfish filets since that flavor can be a little stronger than many prefer. You can fry the hushpuppies and keep them warm in a 200-degree oven until you’re finished cooking the fish. 

Fried Catfish Nuggets
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
5 farm-raised catfish fillets cut into 2-inch pieces
Peanut or canola oil

Trim any dark fat that’s along the edges of the catfish fillets. Mix flour, salt and peppers in a shallow pan. Blend the buttermilk and eggs in another shallow pan and the cornmeal and spices in a third pan. Dredge the fish in the flour mixture, and shake off any excess. Dip the fillets in buttermilk and then in cornmeal mixture; set them on a platter and allow to dry for a few minutes.

Heat an inch of oil in a deep skillet to 350 degrees. Fry a few fillets at a time until each is golden brown on both sides. Drain on a wire rack, and serve with hushpuppies and lemon wedges.

2 strips bacon
2 cups yellow corn meal
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk

Fry the bacon until crispy. Crumble the bacon, and set the drippings aside. Heat 2 inches of oil in a deep skillet (or dutch oven) to 350 degrees. Mix the cornmeal and flour together, and whisk in the other dry ingredients. Beat the eggs and buttermilk together, and add the bacon drippings; fold into the dry ingredients. When the mixture is smooth, fold in the crumbled bacon.

Let the mixture stand for about 10 minutes to lighten. Drop by the teaspoonful into the heated oil; cook in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan.

The hushpuppies will float to the top. Turn them to ensure they brown evenly, which should take about five minutes.

Chris Fennimore is the director of programming at WQED and the producer/host for QED Cooks.  Follow his blog on food and family at wqed.org/tv/cooks/chrischat.