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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Cornmeal Fried Catfish, Black-Eyed Pea Salad, Pickled Jalapeno Relish

Cornmeal Fried Catfish over Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Pickled Jalapeno Relish
I've been wanting to play around with some different fried catfish recipes for a while so when I was gifted a Lodge Cast Iron skillet and cookbook as part of a Virtual Potluck blog party, I knew which recipe I needed to try!  The dish titled Cornmeal Fried Catfish over Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Pickled Jalapeno Relish jumped right out at me.  Rather than being fried catfish with more fried stuff, this presented an almost-healthy alternative.  Sure, I would still bread and deep fry the catfish in peanut oil, but at least I didn't throw in sides French fries and hush puppies!  I assembled a group of friends at my buddy Bret's house to test out his remodeled kitchen.  A short while later, a memorable meal emerged!  The Lodge Cookbook provided the recipes for the black-eyed pea salad and jalapeno relish in addition to the catfish itself.  Both were very easy to create and extremely tasty.  The pickled jalapeno relish didn't overpower anything with spiciness and its sweetness made it an interesting garnish.  The black-eyed pea salad which sat underneath the catfish came out bright and full of flavor from the artichoke hearts and red bell pepper.  So the main thing I needed to master quickly became frying the fish!

The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook and My Groceries at Calandro's Supermarket (Win a Cookbook at the bottom of this post!)
After a shopping trip to Calandro's Supermarket to pick up the key ingredients, I arrived at Bret's house and got to work.  The recipe for the catfish itself is what really piqued my curiosity.  It began with sprinkling the fillets with salt and pepper followed by a hefty dash of hot sauce.

Raw Catfish Fillets with Hot Sauce
After covering both sides with salt, pepper, and hot sauce and rubbing it over the fillets, the next step was to dredge the catfish in the dry batter.  The hot sauce helped the batter adhere to the catfish and create an excellent coating for a crispy fish.  This, however, was no ordinary fried fish batter.  It started with equal parts cornmeal and masa harina.  Masa harina is basically the fine corn flour that is used to make the dough for corn tortillas and tamales.  I had never used it before as a fish fry, but I'm sold now.  In addition to the cornmeal and masa harina, I added a decent shaking of Cajun seasoning and seasoned salt.  Then the fillets were tossed in the batter and prepared for their oily bath.

Catfish Fillets in the Cornmeal and Masa Harina Batter
 In a 12 inch Lodge Cast Iron skillet my peanut oil came up to temp at around 375 degrees.  I dropped in catfish fillets two at a time and fried them until they were golden brown.

Catfish Fillets Frying in Peanut Oil in a Lodge Cast Iron Skillet
To plate the dish I spooned a generous portion of the black-eyed pea salad on the middle of a plate.  I then topped the salad with a fresh catfish fillet.  On top of the fish rested a couple spoonfuls of the pickled jalapeno relish.  All in all, this dish really impressed me.  I think the catfish itself stole the show.  I might incorporate masa harina into frying batters much more often.  It delivered a light and crispy batter to the beautifully seasoned catfish.  If you're looking for masa harina, I know Calandro's Supermarket in Baton Rouge has it.  You can also find it at any Latin or Mexican specialty store.

Cornmeal Fried Catfish over Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Pickled Jalapeno Relish


Want your own copy of the Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook?  Leave a comment on this blog post about what your favorite things to cook in cast iron.  You can go big like a jambalaya in a 30 gallon pot or you could cook cornbread in an 8" skillet.  No matter what, just tell me what you like to cook in cast iron and make sure I can get in touch with you.  One lucky comment will be selected to receive a free copy of the book!