Monday, March 11, 2013

Childhood Memories - Fried Catfish, Potato Salad, and Corn Bread

Happy post "spring forward" to you all.  Does anybody else feel like a truck hit you because of lack of sleep?  We are feeling the time change here at the little yellow cottage big time and I don't really know why.  Dan and I have both been a bit draggy.  The cloudy, rainy day probably didn't help.  But, it's SO nice to have more daylight later in the day.  The rain clouds cleared up late in the afternoon and it was still light at 6:30.  Yahoo!  I am so looking forward to warm spring and summer evenings when it stays light until 8 or 8:30 and the grandsons can play in the yard while we sit outside enjoying it all.  Bring it on!

I spent most of the weekend working on spring craft projects.  What did you do? I have got a lot of new things to show you once I get them all finished.  Spent most of today with my hands covered in glue working on a fun project.  That's your hint for today.  Check back later in the week to see if there is anything you want to try.  After having fun crafting all day, it was time for dinner.

Dinner tonight was a flashback from my childhood, one of my all time favorites.  Everyone has some favorites from childhood and this just happens to be one of mine.  Fried catfish, potato salad and corn bread baked in a cast iron skillet.  Yum.  Yum.  Dan and I both grew up eating fish and loving it.  Dan's dad loved to fish and my uncle loved to fish.  Several times a year, my aunt would call and invite us over for a big old fish fry.  Talk about excited!  That meant all of the above would be on the menu, or maybe hush puppies in place of cornbread and ALWAYS a lemon meringue pie which is probably my most favorite pie to this day.  Just makes me think of warm summer evenings and family eating outside under the huge weeping willow tree.  Such a good memory.

I happened upon some lovely catfish fillets at Kroger and snagged them right up.  I knew that I would be cooking them the "old fashioned way" as I call it.  Simple.  Salt and pepper, rolled in corn meal and fried.  Couldn't be easier if you tried.  I am not a fan of tempura type breading on fish like they do in most restaurants.  I like crispy, crunchy cornmeal browned to perfection where you can taste the fish and not just the breading.  Here is how you make this fabulous catfish.  If you are using fiddlers, or nuggets, follow the same procedure.  You can use this same method on most any fish that  you fry.

These fillets were huge.  Here is one in a 9 x 13 baking dish just to give you an idea of the size.
I knew turning them would be difficult while cooking, so I cut them all in half to make it easier.

First, salt and pepper both sides of the fish.  Place about 2 cups of yellow corn meal (to which you have added about another 2 teaspoons of salt and thoroughly mixed into the cornmeal) in a dish deep enough for breading your fish.  Lay one side of the fish in the cornmeal and kind of press it with your hands so it is well coated with cornmeal and then turn and do the same to the other side.  If there are any "bald" spots, sprinkle more cornmeal over those places and press with your hands.  Coat all your fish pieces in the cornmeal.
Traditionally, this fish is cooked in a cast iron skillet, but I have a glass top stove.  Cast iron gets very hot and can crack a glass stove, so I use my trusty electric skillet set at 350 degrees.  Feel free to use a skillet on your stove.  Add about 1/2 inch of vegetable oil and let it heat until it ripples.  That is when you are ready to fry baby fry.  Letting your oil heat first keeps the cornmeal from sticking to the pan instead of the fish.

Do not turn the fish until you see that the cornmeal is starting to brown around the bottom edges of the fish.  Use a spatula, and not a fork, to turn the fish so it doesn't fall apart.  Cook the other side until golden brown.  Gently lift the fish up just a bit with the spatula to make sure the fish is good and brown before removing from the pan.  Depending on how thick your fish is, it should only cook a few minutes (3-5) on each side.
When removing the fish from the pan, hold it over the skillet for a few seconds to let any excess oil drain from the spatula.  You want it to be beautifully golden brown.
Yum.  Yum.  Yum.  Can you see the edges of the fish where it is all crispy and crunchy.  That is my favorite part.  Delicious.

Even though this fish is filleted and should not have any bones in it, you may want to check each bite  before eating it.  Fish is good, bones are bad.  Just a little warning, especially if you have small ones eating with you.

Oh, this was such a delicious meal.  I know everyone doesn't like fish, but it is so good for you and a wonderful alternative to meat.  Dan and I both grew up eating blue gill (called bream in the south), crappie, cat fish, striped bass and we even caught some Northern Pike one year at Kentucky Dam that was awesome.

If you love cornbread (and I don't mean Jiffy Mix, which I do use), I will share the recipe with you later for a big old cast iron skillet full of old time goodness.  Put a big old slab of butter on it while it's hot and, oh baby, you have got a treat.  The cast iron skillet gives it an amazing crust and it is nothing but crumbly, warm corn goodness on the inside.  Yes sir!  That's what I'm talkin' about.  It also makes fabulous cornbread dressing.

Memories.  This satisfyingly delicious meal gave me a little trip down memory lane this evening.  Sometimes, those are good trips to take.  Family recipes and ways of preparing food are worth passing on and learning to prepare.  It keeps our family memories alive.  Tell the stories to your family of what your favorite foods mean to you.  It's history.  Family history.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

“In my South, the most treasured things passed down from generation to generation are the family recipes.”   Robert St. John

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