Celebrate with a salad… said no bear ever! While National Pride Month in June will see more of us hitting the streets, May’s National Salad Month is still worth a little celebrating. As spring days warm toward summer our palates crave lighter, fresher, brighter tasting foods and admit it, you kind of love a good salad whether it’s a blue cheese and bacon-topped wedge or one piled high within a fried taco shell. Salads, from a bowl of greens to a hearty Niçoise can be a simple side or a one-dish supper.
Speaking of salads… This past week, a local farm market manager asked if I could cook catfish at my demo. Live. In front of an audience. Now, while I cook a fair amount of fish, I was terrified. Fish is a more delicate protein than chicken or beef and since I get easily distracted while talking to audiences I had images of producing tough, dry, overcooked fish. In front of an audience.
But I forged ahead with developing a recipe. The fish I was asked to cook was Blue Catfish. It was introduced into the Mid-Atlantic’s Chesapeake Bay in the 1970’s and has become invasive. To control the population, groups like the Wide Net Project are encouraging more fishing – and eating – of Blue Catfish. So I crusted the fish with cornmeal and fried it up before cutting it into crouton-sized pieces, serving it over greens tossed in an Old Bay vinaigrette – after all, we are in Mid-Atlantic crab country.
The results in my test kitchen and at the farm market were a delicious success. So here’s the recipe for Crispy Cornmeal-crusted Catfish Crouton salad with Old Bay Vinaigrette. Say that five times fast. Happy National Salad Month and let me know below what your favorite salad is.
Crispy Cornmeal-crusted Catfish Crouton salad with Old Bay Vinaigrette
Chef’s note: Fish can buckle and curl over heat so press down on it with your spatula for few seconds.
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 2 tbs sweet paprika
- 1 lb fish
- 6 tbs vegetable oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tbs Old Bay
- 1 tbs honey
- 1/3 cup cider vinegar
- 2/3 cups vegetable oil
- Hot sauce
- 1/2 lb fresh greens like lettuce or baby spinach
In a shallow bowl combine cornmeal and paprika. Season to taste with salt, pepper and cayenne.
Pat fish dry with paper towels and dredge in cornmeal mixture.
Warm 2 tbs vegetable oil in a 12” skillet over med-high heat. Add 1/2 of the fish and press down with a spatula until it releases easily. Flip fish and cook through until it flakes easily. Repeat with remaining fish, adding additional vegetable oil if needed.
Make dressing: mash garlic into a paste with coarse salt. Place in a med bowl and whisk together with Old Bay, honey, and vinegar. Season with pepper.
While whisking, drizzle oil into vinegar mixture to form a creamy emulsion. Season to taste with hot sauce. Lightly dress greens.
Chop fish in 1/2” pieces and serve over greens.
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