Savor the South–Catfish

Catfish by Paula and Angela Knipple, UNC Press 2015, $19.00 cloth, 152 pages

Catfish by Paula and Angela Knipple, UNC Press 2015, $19.00 cloth, 152 pages

The only thing you can do to make catfish edible is fry them.

–Blake Shelton

Paul and Angela Knipple, authors of this book, would certainly disagree.

Their recipes cover appetizers to entrees, with salads, sandwiches, soups, and stews in between. Plenty of options for delicious catfish.

That being said, their first chapter is all about fried catfish–thin-fried, whole fish, steaks, fillets, and popcorn bites–deliciously and appropriately accompanied by tartar sauce, coleslaw, hushpuppies, pickled green tomatoes, white beans, and cajun cabbage. You can practically smell the pond water.

But before the recipes, the Knipples tell you where to get your catfish, unhooked off a cane pole or gathered from a trotline. More likely, you’ll find it frozen from the supermarket and in that case, make it American farmed, which is a healthy and sustainable choice. The Knipples also dig into to some catfish esoterica, including the connection between catfish and the Rolling Stones.

The book’s first recipe, Thin-fried Catfish, seems to be the Brigadoon of catfish dishes–appearing only rarely and when it does, charming diners with its ethereal crunch and sweetness. It is also described as the book’s most difficult recipe, since you have to trim the fillets into even thinner slices. A sharp knife is essential. So is hot oil to crisp the simple coating of salt, corn meal, and cayenne.

My version was credible; I suppose the oil could have been a bit hotter, but they plated up nicely with a pile of Coleslaw, bound by Duke’s mayo and sparked by grated Granny Smith apple. In fact, I was inspired to make a quick tartar sauce.

The Knipple’s don’t offer dessert (the  Catfish Pudding is a savory gratin), but they do offer plenty of catfish choices, including Hungarian, Colombian, Moroccan, and Vietnamese flavors in tacos, burgers, jerked or en papillote. From picnic tables to white linen place settings, there’s a catfish dish you’ll want to serve.

About Appetite for Books

read, cook, eat, repeat
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