Jumping Catfish!

September 12, 1990|By Charlyne Varkonyi

Catfish ought to get the prize for the best image makeover in the fish business. Once thought of as an undesirable scavenger fish, the tasty whitefish now has Americans clamoring for it everywhere from homes to restaurants.

The makeover answer was catfish farming, a clean method of raising the fish in a controlled environment that the Catfish Institute says has bolstered catfish consumption 25 percent a year for the past 10 years.

I have taken one of the typical Southern preparations for fried catfish and updated it for 1990s tastebuds and health concerns. First, if you are going to fry anything these days, your best bet is canola oil. You won't save on calories, but canola oil has no cholesterol and is the lowest of all oils in saturated fat.

The updated recipe is an all-American parade of states -- with corn meal from the south, the spicy Old Bay seasoning from Maryland and macadamia nuts from Hawaii. The spicy mayonnaise served on the side also echoes the heat with a jalapeno pepper.

Serve the catfish with buttered fresh corn on the cob and an Italian tomato salad. Your game plan should start by putting water on to boil for the corn. Then batter and fry the catfish. While the catfish is cooking, you can prepare the salad.

Items you should have in your pantry include: egg, yellow corn meal, flour, Old Bay or spicy seafood seasoning, salt, white and black pepper, canola oil, mayonnaise, garlic, green onions, lemon and extra virgin olive oil.

Your 10-item-or-less shopping list includes:

*1 1/4 pounds catfish fillets

*1 small jar macadamia nuts

*1 jalapeno pepper

*2 tomatoes

*mozzarella cheese

*1 bunch fresh basil

*2 ears corn on the cob

Catfish with macadamia nuts

Makes 4 servings.

1 1/4 pounds catfish fillets

1 large egg, beaten

1/4 cup yellow corn meal

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

Salt and white pepper

1/4 cup canola oil

1/2 cup macadamia nuts, chopped

Spicy mayonnaise, see recipe

Cut catfish into four pieces. Mix corn meal, flour, Old Bay seasoning, salt and pepper in a flat dish. Dip catfish into egg. Dredge in corn meal mixture. Heat oil in large non-stick skillet. Fry on medium high heat, about 10 minutes per inch, turning halfway through cooking. Drain on paper towels. Top with macadamia nuts. Serve with spicy mayonnaise.

Spicy mayonnaise

Makes 4 servings.

1 cup mayonnaise

1 large clove garlic, chopped fine

3 green onions, sliced, including green part

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and deveined and chopped fine

Put mayonnaise in a bowl. Add garlic, onion, lemon juice and pepper. Mix well.

Tomatoes and basil with mozzarella cheese

2 tomatoes, sliced

mozzarella cheese in large slices


salt and pepper, to taste

extra virgin olive oil

Alternate tomatoes and cheese on a flat dish. Top with basil. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.

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