I’m a big fan of dishes that are easy and fast. One night I was at the store, saw some catfish and decided to buy mysef a fillet. When I got it home I had to find some way to make it interesting with my limited spices. The result has a flavor that very much resembles the physical texture you want to shoot for: lightly seared on the outside that, once breached, reveals a nice soft middle. This will take less than 10 minutes to prepare and cook. Near East makes a sun-dried tomato and rice box that, like everything of theirs, is trivial to make and goes well with this*. We had it with a nice red wine this time but, in retrospect, the flavor is a bit too powerful for wine. Knudsen’s spritzers worked well but I think that the perfect drink for this would be mango juice, although you might want to swap the sun-dried tomato rice with a simpler rice-pilaf if you went that way. If you live near an Indian restaurant you may want to snag some Mango Lassis because this’ll be a little hot. But, neither Miller, nor I, are fans of hot foods and we both like this dish. Ingredients:
- catfish filet
- crushed red pepper (preferably freshly ground)
- black pepper (also freshly ground)
- olive oil
You’ll want 1⁄2 - 3⁄4 of a fillet per person. Your pan should be medium high: hot enough to sear the outside of the fish but but not so hot that it won’t have time to cook all the way through. Coat the bottom of the pan in a thin layer of olive oil, and when it’s hot throw it the whole fillets. Quickly grind on a healthy amount of black pepper (imagine you’re having sunny side up eggs and you reallllly like black pepper). Grind on the red pepper. Grind on more red pepper. Hmm, no I don’t think you understand. You see how much black pepper you put on? Yeah, you want about 125-150% of that amount. Throw on the oregano and quickly flip the filet. Don’t try and do it slow and gentle. Catfish gets really flaky as it cooks and once it starts to break apart it’ll just disintegrate. So, get your spatula under there, and lift and flip in one quick motion (but don’t slap it down, and watch out for hot oil spatter). Coat the seconds side just like you did the first. Cover and let sit for a few minutes. Once the bottom has started to sear flip it, leave the cover off for a minute to let the moisture escape that had built up before, make sure it’s still got enough olive oil left, then cover for a few more minutes. Take the cover off and after a minute or so, turn off the heat. You want to be careful at this point because the fish will flake really easily. What to expect: This will have a strong initial hit that will clear out your sinuses followed up with the gentle flavor of the fish. I think the peppers actually make the catfish flavor a seem lot milder than i remember from my childhood. The searing is really critical to pulling this dish off. If after that first spice side is flipped back it doesn’t have a nice red-gold sear going on turn it right back over. It’s a lot harder to redo it after the other side is done because it’ll fall apart easily. Notes: Miller suggests dill instead of the oregano. I say experiment with almost any dried green leafy bits you have laying around. I’m going to try dried parsley next time. The oregano isn’t quite flavorful enough. I recommend starting to grind after it’s already in the pan so that the spices that miss the fish fall into the oil and thus get cooked into it as you go. I don’t cook this with lemon juice, or personally think that it adds much to the flavor when added afterwards but it doesn’t taste bad at all and pouring some on after does tend to calm down the heat if it’s a bit much for you. *I have no idea how long the rice takes to cook. I just stuck it in my kick-ass rice-cooker and told it when I wanted it to finish. I can’t tell you how how awesome this rice-cooker is. Yes, I realize it’s “just a rice cooker” but it is really well made, wonderfully designed, and does a kick-ass job of making sure different rices, and rice and veggie combinations come out right, and compensating for when I put in too much water (easy to do when you’ve got moist veggies in there too).