Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Pan Fried Catfish and Hush Puppies

     Down Home Cooking!
     Pan fried catfish is a popular old fashioned southern entree!  When I was living in Florida, I liked taking a drive through the country and seeing small towns in the center of the state.  Most center of state Florida towns are farming communities.  Some of the very best barbecue restaurants are found in small farm communities.  Where barbecue is sold, catfish is usually on the menu too.  Closer to Lake Okeechobee, restaurant signs for "All You Can Eat Fried Catfish" can be seen.  There are many large catfish farms around Lake Okeechobee, so catfish is king!
     Driving the backroads anywhere in the American South, Texas or the Carolinas is the same as central Florida.  Gourmet dining in these areas is fresh catfish and barbecue!  Fried whole catfish or catfish fingerlings are usually the best bargains on the menu and the portions are big.  Fried Whole Catfish, Potatoes, Cole Slaw and Hush Puppies usually costs less than $10 in a "Florida Cracker" restaurant.
     There are many stories about how Hush Puppies got their name.  Hush Puppies are fried balls of thick cornbread batter.  Most people agree that the Hush Puppy nickname came from feeding corn bread balls mixed with scrap meat to barking dogs to hush them up.  Escaped slaves that were on the road to freedom used hush puppies to quiet barking dogs that aroused suspicion.  Dogs simply cannot resist greasy cornbread that is flavored with scrap meat and loading the Hush Puppies with Black Pepper helped to keep the dogs from picking up a scent trail.  
     Nowadays, Hush Puppies are rarely fed to dogs.  Hush Puppies are people food and they are almost always served at Southern style restaurants that serve up fried catfish.
     Some may wonder about what kind of sauce to serve with Fried Catfish and Hush Puppies.  Tartar sauce is popular, but most people down south like a bottle of Tabasco Pepper Sauce or Hot Pepper Vinegar.  At BBQ or catfish restaurants in the South, a bottle of Hot Pepper Vinegar is found on nearly every table.  Usually the peppers in the vinegar are Red Tabasco or Green Tabasco.

     Hush Puppies:
     This recipe yields about 4-5 hush puppies.  (1 or 2 portions.)
     Hush puppies can be pan fried or deep fried.  Deep frying will cook the hush puppies evenly and they will retain their round shape.
     Step 1:  Place 2/3 cup of fine ground corn meal in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/3 cup of all purpose flour.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of onion powder.
     Add 2 pinches of garlic powder.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Mix the dry ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Place 1 1/2 tablespoons of whisked egg in a mixing cup.
     Add 1 teaspoon of bacon grease or vegetable oil.
     Add 1/4 cup of buttermilk.
     Whisk till blended.
     Step 3:  Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture while gently stirring.
     Step 4:  *Check the consistency.  The batter should be moist, yet thick enough to hold its shape when gathered with a scoop.  Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of milk if the batter is too dry.
     Step 5:  Chill the hush puppy mixture for 10 minutes, so the flavors meld.       
     Step 6:  Heat 6" of vegetable frying oil in a high sided pot to 360ºF.
     A 1 1/2 ounce scoop can be used to make the cornbread ball shapes or 1 1/2 ounce portions of the extra thick batter can be rolled into ball shapes by hand.  The hush puppy cornbread balls should be 1" to 1 1/2" in diameter.
     As soon as you form a round hush puppy, immediately place it in the hot deep frying oil.
     Work quickly, so all the hush puppies start cooking at nearly the same time.
     Step 7:  Fry the hush puppies till they are golden brown and the center temperature reaches 190ºF.
     Place the hush puppies on a wire screen roasting rack to drain off any excess oil.
     Keep the hush puppies warm on a stove top.
     Pan Fried Catfish:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.  (Or fry 2 medium size catfish for a hearty portion.)
     Step 1:  Select 1 or 2 whole skinned and gutted catfish that weigh about 10 ounces.
     Place 1 cup of milk in a long shallow container.
     Place the catfish in the milk.
     Step 2:  Place 1 cup of all purpose flour in a shallow wide container.
     Add 1 cup of corn meal.
     Add 1 cup of cracker meal.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of cayenne pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of onion powder.
     Add 2 pinches of garlic powder.
     Mix the dry ingredients together.
     Step 3:  Remove the catfish from the milk and place it in the seasoned flour mixture.
     Shake the pan, so the fish fry breading coats the catfish.
     Step 4:  Pick the catfish up by the tail and dip it in the milk a second time.
     Place the catfish in the seasoned fish fry breading mixture a second time.
     Shake the pan so the catfish is thoroughly coated.
     Step 5:  Place a wide cast iron skillet over medium heat.
     Add enough vegetable frying oil (or lard), so the oil is about 3/4" deep.
     Adjust the temperature, so the oil is 350ºF.
     Step 6:  Pick the catfish up by the tail and carefully place it in the hot oil in the pan.
     Pan fry the catfish on both sides till the coating is crispy golden brown and the center temperature is 145ºF.
     Use tongs to place the fried catfish on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan to drain off any excess oil.

     Pan Fried Catfish and Hush Puppies: 
     This recipe describes 1 simple entrée presentation.
     Place the catfish on a plate.
     Place a Southern style vegetable of your choice on the plate.  (Corn, butter beans, baked beans, cole slaw or fried okra are good choices.
     Place 2 or 3 hush puppies on the plate.
     Garnish the plate with a lemon wedge and a parsley sprig.
     Serve with hot sauce or hot pepper vinegar on the side!

     Fried Catfish and Hush Puppies are classic summertime comfort food!          

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