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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Rainy day pasta salad and pan fried local catfish. I love mayonnaise.

  It's finally raining here in Phoenix. A wonderful and very welcome break from the 110F heat we experience in July. Today it's overcast with cool breezes and an occasional rain-squall.
 I got some eggplant and basil from the farmer's market this morning and some local-catch catfish. Looks like dinner.
 I know that a lot of folks don't like catfish. It's muddy, mealy and not very refined. All of that's true. I still love it. Here are some tricks to use that will elevate this simple poor man's fish. Plus hush-puppies.

 BUT FIRST let's do a chop and dump.


Mise en place

I used tri-color pasta, call me a 5-year-old but I still get a kick from colored pasta with funny shapes. 16-oz.
some garlic oil. You don't have any??? Ok use olive oil. Next time though ok?
Some cherry tomatoes. Sliced in half. I KNOW don't we all just love that burst of tomato numiness from biting into a fresh cherry tomato? Ever try to pierce one with a fork? Right. Slice them in half.
1 eggplant. Roasted and chopped.
1 red or yellow bell pepper. Cored, seeded. Finely chopped. Today I used yellow, 'cus the red ones at the market just sucked.
Chiffonade of fresh herbs. Today I used mint, basil and rosemary.
 Handful of Purslane, chopped. ooo Nick what is this? It's that weed that crops up through your flagstone. Used throughout latin-america. Super-nutritious. Looks like this
  AND 1/2 cup of Aioli. Mayo with garlic. I've discovered a commercial mayo made from olive oil that I truly love, zesty and as good as anything I can make by hand. I combine it with some garlic oil and chopped roasted garlic cloves. A great use for those cloves in the center of the head that are too small to bother with. Wrap un-peeled in foil, roast until soft, squeeze out into a jar with some fresh rosemary and cover with olive oil. Store in fridge. You'll always have garlic oil.

First off. Follow the directions on the bag of pasta. We're looking for al dente. Once done, rinse off with ice water. Toss with a little oil and place in a wide shallow pan. Allow to cool completely (hey use your freezer). The most common error with pasta salad is to add all the other ingredients while the pasta is warm. All that does is make it absorb the dressing and make a dry finished product. Blechy. Keep in your fridge until I say so.

Eggplant. Scourge of childhood. Bane of the food ignorant. O what a lovely, meaty and succulent fruit. For today, cut it in half lengthwise. Oil a baking sheet and throw some salt and pepper on it. Smear the cut half on the baking surface and place in a 350F degree oven until it turns all golden and soft (maybe an hour). Pierce with a fork if you don't believe me. Remove from oven and cool completely. Scoop out the flesh and chop.

Combine with all the other stuff, Chill. Not just the salad but you yourself, just chill.


Mise en place

4-catfish fillets
1 cup whole milk
1 cup polenta. If you don't have polenta, use regular cornmeal. If you don't have that use bread-crumbs, corn-flakes, rice crispies. Be creative.
1/2 cup seasoned flour. Season with paprika, black pepper, dry thyme, salt.
2 eggs beaten
wide large saute pan
vegetable oil
Remoulade. Mayo with tobasco, capers, lemon juice.

Catfish is a bottom feeder and can have a distinct muddy taste. Soaking in milk for an hour takes care of that. Just place the fish in a wide shallow dish, sprinkle with salt and pepper and gently add your milk. Flip once and let sit in 'fridge.

A couple of squirts of tobasco wouldn't hurt either but I'll leave that up to you. 
Once it's soaked, drain and dry.
 Time for our breading station. Flour, egg-wash, polenta. In three separate containers.

Now here's a tip. Lick your fingers, go on. Ok, it's salty and warm right? So let's keep from touching our fish no more than necessary. Your fingers can actually cook your fish before you want to. Go wash your hands.

Flour first, it helps stick the eggs on, shake off excess. Egg-wash. Then polenta. Just like this.


Get your oil heated up. Look for it to shimmer. Fry each fillet on one side until lightly brown, carefully flip over. Remove and let drain. Keep in a warm place until serving. 

Seems to me I promised you some hush-puppies. Take your left over egg-wash, left over seasoned flour and combine gently. Add onion powder and dump the whole thing into your left-over polenta, add cold milk until soft enough to shape into balls. Fry up. Easy right? 

Go get your remoulade made. Mayo, tobasco, little paprika if you want. Lemon juice and capers. Mix together. 

Plate up. Now hey. If you find you just can't take catfish. No worries. Any fresh water fish works with this. I just happened to be lucky enough to find some locally. 

Now get your grub on. Ciao. 


  1. Looks really good. I'm going to have to try something like this sometime soon.

  2. You know Nick I only live minutes from you, if you ever need help eating all that food you cook just give me a jingle :)

  3. Ricki, I'm actually thinkin' of havin' a RAM party here maybe in the fall

  4. Thank you Krystal. I love basic American grub.

  5. Nick, one word...YUMMY!

    Catfish is my favorite!
    Thanks for create'n & share'n.

  6. I'm not even sure what the more appropriate thing to talk about is- the dish or the RAIN in Phoenix! I mean, really???

    We are not huge catfish consumers, but this looks like a nice classic. Thanks for sharing.

  7. What a wonderful dinner of fresh everything! I love all your tips, especially on the catfish. Just beautiful!

  8. Great job with the Catfish!! what a beautiful plate!

  9. Thank you Chef, kinda like summer on a plate.