Catfish with Jalapeno Tarter Sauce and Candied-Bacon Green Beans

You know I live in the South, right?

Well if you didn’t…you’d know now.

This is a meal from my highly successful week of menu planning (last week) and since I was just getting ready to post the menu for this week, I thought I’d better wrap up the last of the missing recipes.

I’ve been making fish this way for several years and I like it because, while it seems like it is fried, the coating is very thin and you hardly use any oil. The pan is practically dry…you’ll see.

You start with corn meal and bread crumbs, about 1/2 and 1/2, with salt and pepper.

Then it’s a very simple assembly line: fish (and any light, thin fish fillet will do), egg whites beaten until frothy, bread crumb/cornmeal mixture and a clean plate.

Something happens when you make egg whites all frothy like that…it really helps the dry coating adhere while still staying nice and light. No gloppy milk and egg mixture. It’s quite nice.

If you gently press the fish into the dry mixture, it will just adhere right to it. Flip and repeat…I try to make sure to cover all the edges and sides, too. And then set them on the clean plate.

Then you heat about 2 TB of olive oil and 1 pat of butter in a large (12″) skillet. It won’t seem like a lot – it’s not. That’s part of the beauty of this recipe. When the butter stops foaming, place 2-3 of the fillets in the skillet.  Cook about 3 minutes on one side and 2-3 minutes on the other.

Can you tell that the pan is virtually dry compared to how most pans look when you are frying something? I’m always a little amazed that it works out.

See? Crazy, huh?

And yet when you flip them…

crispity crunchity!

Now, let’s get to the green beans.

Start with bacon. And not just plain old bacon, but bacon that has been dredged in just a little bit of sugar.

God placed a lot of animals on this planet who bring tremendous pleasure to us humans. I consider the pig to be very near the top of that list. Can I get an “amen?”

Once the bacon is cooked/caramelized, remove it and then use part of the bacon drippings to cook some onions before you add the green beans. I like the green beans to get just a little bit of color on them before I turn the heat down and partially put a cover over the pan so they can steam just a bit. I will toss in a few splashes of chicken broth to get the steam going for a few minutes with the lid partly on and then let it cook off so the beans sauté and take on a little color. Then maybe a little more steam. It’s like a combination sauté/steam method…highly technical…can you tell? You toss the candied-bacon back on top right before you serve.

Here’s a helpful hint: when you set the bacon aside after it cooks, resist the temptation to drain it on a paper towel like you might always do. That thin sugar coating is a relative of super glue and if it dries on a paper  towel, you’ll have to come up with some way to explain all the tiny white pieces of “seasoning” on your bacon. (Also, turns out, you can partly rinse cooked bacon if you are really quick…it won’t mess it up and those little paper bits just come right off.)

The full fish recipe (with tarter sauce) is below…enjoy!!

Fried Fish with Jalapeño Tarter Sauce

from Cook’s Country

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 TB chopped, pickled jalapeños

6 T finely chopped scallions, divided

2 teaspoons lime juice

3/4 cup cornmeal

3/4 cup plain bread crumbs

lime wedges for serving

4 skinless trout, catfish, flounder fillets (5-7 oz each, thin)

5 TB olive oil, divided

2 TB butter, divided

salt/pepper

2 large egg whites

Combine mayonnaise, jalapeños, 2T scallions and lime juice in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Place a heatproof serving platter in the oven at 200°. Combine the bread crumbs, corn meal, salt, pepper and remaining scallions in a shallow bowl or plate. Whisk egg whites until foamy. Season fillets with salt/pepper. One at a time, dip fillets in egg whites and then in bread crumb mixture, pressing down firmly to help coating adhere. Set aside in a single layer on a large plate. Heat 1 TB butter and 2-3 TB olive oil in a large skillet. When the butter stops foaming place half the fillets in the skillet and cook 3 minutes. Flip and cook the second side until the thickest part of the fillet flakes…another 2-3 minutes. Transfer the fillets to the heated platter. Repeat with remaining oil, butter and fish. Serve immediately with mayo and lime wedges.

Also: this fish freezes surprisingly well and the coating holds up to reheat in the oven or on the stove top. It’s a great way to have homemade, oven-ready fish sticks on hand if your kids like that kind of thing. Just cut the fillets in smaller pieces and follow the same method.

 

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Greens!

It’s hard to escape a farmers’ market without a big bunch of leafy greens.

Turnip Greens (apologies for photos - it's dark so early now - I haven't adjusted yet!)

These greens weren’t actually mine.  My mother bought them.  She got swept up in the chef demonstration recipe which included turnips and bison and some other things I can’t remember.  Anyway, she didn’t expect to use all of them, and so here they are in my kitchen.

It was a night I didn’t really feel like cooking…in fact, my husband almost ran out to grab something…but with the greens on my counter and a couple of staples on-hand (bacon and rice and broth,) I mustered just enough energy to throw together a quick dinner.  No masterpiece here, but we enjoyed a nice Southern staple on the patio and I got to put some green things on my son’s plate.  No, of course he didn’t eat them, but that never stops me from putting them in front of him!

Turnip greens with mushrooms and bacon

The key with greens is that you need a lot of them.  And you have to clean them and then clean them again.  Then they simmer in broth with onions and your choice of pork.  I usually serve them with some vinegar (but I forgot that the other night!)  Also, in spite of washing them twice, there was still some occasional grit…so I really mean it when I say you wash and wash and wash them.  The bacon goes first, then add the onions and mushrooms.  Once everything is nice and happy in the bacon grease you add the washed, chopped greens in batches as they wilt.  Add broth as needed so they can simmer for 40-45 minutes.  Finish with a splash of vinegar before serving.  Oh, and you’ll want to have some cornbread handy to sop up some of that “pot likker” as they call it.

Steam some rice and quick sauté some shrimp…and dinner is served.

Meatballs!

A week or so ago one of my dearest friends, Erica, called me in need of a good turkey meatball recipe.  Now, when Erica says she needs a good recipe, she’s serious.  She’s a kitchen experimenter extraordinaire.  And she can be relentless about it…trying different methods and doing recipes over and over until they are just right.  No surprise she’s one of my most favorite people on the planet.  Not to mention she’s got a super cool dog and two of the most adorable boys you’ve ever, ever seen.  (And her husband’s pretty great, too – I shouldn’t leave him out!)

Seattle Aquarium 2008
Here's Erica with Adorable Son #1, in blue, and my son at the Seattle Aquarium last year.
Here's the coolest dog ever, Denali, after a particularly exhausting New Year's party.
The coolest dog, Denali, after a particularly exhausting New Year's party.
Seattle 2008
And Adorable Son #2 after a particularly exhausting day with my son (in grey.)

Erica and I have conspired on a number of kitchen concoctions and my favorite wine tastings ever were hosted by her.  So I was immediately on board with the quest for a really great turkey meatball.  She was starting with a recipe from Giada and improvising from there.

First things first, she doubled the cheese.  Erica always doubles the cheese.

Then she was planning to caramelize some onions before adding them to mixture…puréed to add moisture…genius.  We discussed bread crumbs and eggs and options for cooking technique.  She promised to send me her final  trial recipe if it turned out.

I made them last night.  You should make them tonight.  YUM.

Meatballs
Meatballs formed and waiting to get a little sear on the outside

I made only slight deviations from her final version: I didn’t completely purée the onions, rather just gave them a super chop after they were caramelized, and I pan-seared them in bacon grease.  I am from the South, after all.

Meatballs II
Meatballs getting happy in bacon fat

I wish I had a photo of them finished and on a plate…but everyone ate them too fast.  My three-year-old had SIX of them!  And I thought I’d made enough to have left overs for lunch today…but they were all gone last night. Impressive.

I served them over rice with a brown, mushroom gravy with corn and a green salad on the side.  But I can’t wait to try them in a tomato sauce on a bed of pasta. Or with egg noodles and a stroganoff-type sauce.

And the next time I make them I’m going to double or triple the batch so I can always have some handy in the freezer.  Thanks to my dear Seattle pal, I present, a fantastic turkey meatball:

Turkey Meatballs

adapted from Erica who adapted from Giada

1 large sweet onion – chopped, caramelized and puréed (or adequately mashed)

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 large egg

1/4 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs

3 TB ketchup  (I’m also thinking about doing half tomato paste and half pesto here…if you try that, let me know!)

1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

1/4 cup Asiago, grated

1/4 cup Parmesan, grated

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 pound ground turkey meat

3 TB olive oil – or bacon grease 🙂

Add all ingredients (expect turkey and oil) to a large bowl and blend well.  Mix in turkey until evenly blended.  Shape turkey into 1 1/4 inch balls.  (I use one of those scoopers for cookie dough to help keep them semi-uniform.) Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.  Brown meatballs, in batches if necessary, until browned on all sides, but not cooked through – about 5 minutes.  Transfer the meatballs to a baking sheet and bake at 400 for 15-18 minutes.  Let rest for a few minutes before serving.  Makes roughly 24 meatballs.