Jefferson Adams is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. His poems, essays and photographs have appeared in Antioch Review, Blue Mesa Review, CALIBAN, Hayden's Ferry Review, Huffington Post, the Mississippi Review, and Slate among others.
He is a member of both the National Writers Union, the International Federation of Journalists, and covers San Francisco Health News for Examiner.com.
Okay, so fried foods aren't exactly a good model for the healthiest way to eat. I get that. However, being gluten-free has made me pretty much fried food-free, as well. So, when I discovered recently that crushed Rice Chex makes an amazing gluten-free coating for frying foods, the gloves came off. I've been breading and frying all of my old favorites.
One of my old favorites is most certainly catfish prepared in the southern style. Now, I know two ways to make catfish, though there are doubtless many, many more. One way is dry, and the other is marinated.
This marinated version is my favorite way to prepare catfish.
2 lbs. catfish fillets
1½ quarts vegetable oil, for frying
1½ tbsp. salt, for brine
1 quart water, for brine
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups Rice Chex, finely crushed
2 cups self-rising cornmeal
1 teaspoon seafood seasoning, such as Old Bay
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon red cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon black pepper, to taste
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon thyme
Step One: Soak the Fish
In a large bowl, dissolve 1½ tablespoons of salt in 1 quart of water. Cut catfish fillets into 3 inch strips and add to salt water.
Marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature, or in the refrigerator for one hour.
Remove fish from salt water, and dry lightly on paper towel.
Marinate fish fillets in a small bowl containing buttermilk, and a dash of salt and pepper. (About 30 minutes).
In a large plastic bag, combine the cornmeal, crushed Rice Chex, ½ teaspoon salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and thyme.
Pull fish fillets from the buttermilk, a few fillets at a time, add to the cornmeal mix, and toss gently until fillets are evenly coated.
Place coated fillets on a clean, dry plate.
Step Three: Cook Fish
In a Dutch oven or fryer, heat oil to 350°F. Use a slotted spoon to gently lower several pieces at a time into hot oil. Fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Fish will float when done.
Make sure the fish cooks evenly on the outside. You can turn fillets once if necessary to make sure the outsides are evenly brown. Remove from hot oil to drain on paper towels.
Tip: For crispy fillets, make sure not to overcrowd the pan. Too many fillets at once will lower the oil temperature, which will make the breading absorb oil, and leave your fillets soggy.