At big gatherings, Texans turn to fried catfish and hush puppies
Fried catfish and hush puppies are quintessential examples of simple country cooking. Popular in small town Friday night fish fries, catfish and hush puppies are cheap and able to feed a crowd, making it an obvious choice.
Catfish is mostly farm raised now, making it milder and cleaner tasting than the muddier flavor of the past. Hush puppies are the traditional side for fried fish and are basically cornmeal fritters originally made with the leftover coating ingredients from the fish. Done right, they’ll be airy and nicely seasoned.
Crispy Savory Fried Catfish
1-2 pounds catfish cut into 2-inch wide pieces
½ cup Southern style hot sauce
2 large eggs
Combine hot sauce and eggs. Pour over fish pieces. Let sit while you make the coating.
1½ cups fine cornmeal (Use the finest you can find as it will adhere better to the fish.)
1 cup all purpose flour
3 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon celery seed
Combine and mix well. (Use a food processor for best results.)
Light and Tender Hush Puppies
¾ cup fine corn meal
2⁄3 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
½ cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons bacon grease or Crisco, melted
1 jalapeño, minced
1⁄3 cup onion, grated
Combine and let rest for 30 minutes or while you fry the catfish.
Pour enough frying oil to
come up 1 inch in your skillet. (Cast iron is preferable, but
any heavy-bottomed pan will do.) Heat on medium for most stoves (350 F if you have a thermometer).
While heating the oil, take a large paper bag or grocery bag and layer the catfish in the bottom of the bag. Be sure and put some breading in the bottom first and dust each layer before adding the next layer. Pour any remaining coating over the top. Close the bag, leaving lots of air in the bag and gently shake to coat all the fish. Let sit in the coating while oil is heating.
Place catfish gently into the oil. Always drop away from you for safety. Drop enough to cover the bottom of the pan without crowding. Cook each side until golden brown. Remove and drain. Repeat until all fish is done. You may need to adjust heat as you go.
Skim as much of the cornmeal out of the oil before beginning the hush puppies, as it will tend to burn. Drop the hush puppy batter with a teaspoon and fry until golden brown. Remove and drain.