Continental Catfish
October 9, 2012, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Fish, salad, Southern

Look at all those ingredients! So complicated!

Once upon a time, a long time ago (22 years ago! Wow!) we lived in L.A.  Lower Alabama, that is, in a sweet little town called Monroeville. Among it’s multitudinous charms, there is a lovely restaurant called David’s Catfish House.   Best. Catfish. Ever.  It’s served family style, with big bowls of fabulous cole slaw and creamy amazing cheese grits. Do you know what they do? They use evaporated milk in the recipe (which will follow). It makes for amazing and creamy grits.

Tricky to assemble, too.

Anyway, back when we lived there, the boys (now 24,22 and 21…#4 hadn’t been born yet) were 3,1, and An Argument Thanksgiving Weekend. David, our second son, quickly learned that he and the restaurant shared a name, and it became His Restaurant. It was obvious, what with his name right there on the sign and also written in the linoleum tiles in the entrance.  All the boys learned that when I said “I think we should eat catfish tonight” didn’t mean fishsticks from the oven.  It meant hot, crisp fried catfish,rolled in cornmeal and fried in fresh peanut oil. They didn’t fry it until it was ordered, so it was always piping hot and delectable.

Worth the effort, tho.

However, I am not writing about their (amazing and…throw in a few more adjectives…) fried catfish, but instead about the baked ones.  One day I didn’t want fried catfish (seriously?? I cannot imagine it now that the restaurant is a solid 8 hour drive away) but instead tried the Continental Catfish- a spicy baked version.  It was delicious and the kitchen was happy to share the recipe, even though it is so simple it meant I probably wouldn’t order it anymore, because it could be made at home in the amount of time it takes to put 3 preschoolers into the minivan and drive to the restaurant.  That’s ok though, because I’d still order the delectable fried ones.

Just look at that lovely stuff, will you…

Here’s what you need:

2 pounds catfish fillets (8 or so)

1/2 cup lemon juice (from the bottle is fine)

1 stick of butter, cut into 8 pats (or however many fish fillets you have)

Your favorite Cajun or Creole seasoning blend. I use Zatarain’s Creole Blend, but Emeril’s or Tony Cacheries’  works too.

Put the frozen catfish in a 9×13 casserole dish. Pour the lemon juice all over (it will freeze onto the fillets, which is very cool), and put a pat of butter on top of each fillet. Sprinkle generously with the seasoning blend. Use however much seasoning you like. Bake at 400 degrees until the catfish is opaque and flakes easily.

How easy is that?!

More complicated than the fish. Start it earlier if you’re using long cooking grits.

Serve with Cheese Grits:

4 cups water

1 large (12 oz, I think?) can evaporated milk

1 cup long or quick cooking grits (NOT instant! Those things are a travesty!)

1 teaspoon each salt, ground black pepper, garlic powder

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, depending on how hot you like stuff (or use paprika if you absolutely don’t like hot pepper)

1 to 1-1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (or mild, or colby, if sharp cheese isn’t your thing)

Season them up!

Put the water and canned milk in a pot and bring to a boil. Slowly stir in the grits and seasonings. Turn the heat down to simmer and put the lid on it. Stir frequently to keep it from sticking on the bottom of the pot. Cook until the grits are done and nice and creamy. Stirring frequently is important. I use a whisk to break up any lumps, as my husband says “life is too short to eat lumpy grits.”  When the grits are done, stir in the cheese. Taste it and see if it needs more cheese, salt, or pepper. Adjust the seasoning to suit your taste.  Turn off the heat and put the lid back on.  Serve with the catfish.

mmm creamy goodness

If you put the catfish in the oven, then you can make the grits in about the time it takes for the catfish to bake, if you use quick cooking grits. If you use long cooking (like I do), make the grits first, give them about 20 minutes to cook before you make the catfish.  The grits I use are actually really coarse, so they take nearly an hour to cook. As long as you keep stirring them so they don’t stick, you really can’t overcook them (even with the quick cooking ones) and as long as they don’t scorch, the longer they cook the creamier they get.  Use as low a temperature as you can to keep them at a simmer.  Low and slow…that’s the idea to get creamy grits.

An attempt at an artsy picture of shredded cheese

Serve them up with your favorite cole slaw. Terry likes the simple kind- no fancy ingredients like dill or white wine vinegar or blood orange juice., Just simple Southern Style slaw:

Cole Slaw

8 cups finely shredded cabbage

2 cups shredded carrots

1 cup good mayonnaise (Duke’s, if you can get it. Otherwise Hellman’s or Kraft)

1/4 cup sweet pickle relish

2 tablespoons yellow mustard

Mix together the cabbage and carrots. In another bowl, mix together the mayo, relish, and mustard. Stir that into the cabbage mix. Do not make this way ahead of time, and the dressing will draw water out of the cabbage and you’ll get watery slaw.  Mix it up right before you serve it.

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