Saturday, September 8, 2007

Unsuccessful Catfish

My usual method with catfish is to season the filets vehemently with salt and pepper, drizzle them with hot sauce -- Texas Pete or Crystal, something mild enough to coat the filets without making them inedibly hot -- dredge them in corn meal or crushed cornflakes, and pan-fry them. Seriously basic, and one of the Best Things on Earth. With some remoulade, a bit of coleslaw or some garlicky mashed potatoes, and a frosty mug of lager, you've got yourself a feast.

Tonight for some reason I thought I'd get a little fancier and make a beer batter. I whisked half a can of Bud, 3/4 cup of flour, 1/2 tsp. each salt and paprika together in a bowl. I seasoned the filets and dredged them in flour while I heated an inch and a half of oil in my wok to 375 degrees. The flour-coated filets got a dip in the (somewhat disturbingly pink) batter at the last minute, then went into the hot oil. They were puffy and golden-brown in about a minute and a half.

They were beautiful and light and crisp, perfectly done, and you know what? I don't like catfish done this way. The character of the fish is obliterated in the thick layer of batter. If I didn't know I was eating catfish, I'd have no idea what I just had for dinner. Some fried thing, I guess. I'll try making the batter a little thinner next time before rejecting the whole beer-battering thing outright. It's pretty tasty, but as a dominant flavor it doesn't quite cut it.

For the spuds, cut a Yukon Gold potato into 1/4-inch cubes and boil it in salty water with a couple of whole garlic cloves for 15-20 minutes, till tender. Drain and put in a bowl, add a minced scallion or two and a generous glug of fruity olive oil, and mash.

Remoulade: finely mince fresh dill, fresh tarragon, capers, cornichons, and anchovies and combine them with good mayonnaise. The classical recipe calls for parsley, chervil, chives, and tarragon; of those I only had tarragon on hand, and I love dill, so there you go.


T said...

Bummer! I actually can't imagine battered catfish in my mind's mouth--it's something so wedded with cornmeal, or in a stew with tomatoes and other nice late summer seasonal things--but fair play to you for trying.

Tonight we were too hot to cook, so had tomato sandwiches with tomatoes and sourdough bread from the farmers' market, and basil from the plant in the backyard. Mmmm! Except that I'm hungry again. Oh, well.

Rob said...

Yeah, I think that's part of the problem with me too. What I made wasn't bad, not at all, it was just flying in the face of catfish-as-it-should-be. With a lesser, more forgettable fish like flounder or tilapia, it would work just fine.

T said...

Yeah, something where the batter can be the focal point, rather than the sweetish piney-ness of the catfish.

Myself, this morning I'm hankering for a good ol' solid fry-up--but alas, no sausage in the house. Oh, well!

An Briosca Mor said...

Beer batter to me says fish and chips, and catfish is not a fish I would normally associate with fish and chips. Also, using beer in the batter (and hoping to get any flavor contribution out of it) means that you're going to end up with a thick batter because you'll need a lot of flour to compensate for the beer. And as you point out, your batter was too thick. Perhaps there's a reason that fish and chips is not a staple of the southern kitchen after all.

But here's a thought. If it's the maltiness of beer you're after in a batter that's not so thick, why not try using whiskey?

Rob said...

That is a thought. I predict a lot of fried fish in my future.

Why do I need to compensate for the beer by adding more flour?