Monday, December 5, 2011

Fried Catfish Strips

A Syracuse, NY favorite, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que has a menu that will have you drooling all over yourself  before you even get to the entrees. I could happily make a meal of the appetizers and sides alone. Their Cuban-style black beans and rice are absolutely sublime, there is no other word for it, and the cucumber and tomato salad adds that note of freshness that rounds out whatever big heavy hunk o' smoked meat you may have on your plate.

If I were to make a meal of the appetizers, I'd have to start with their Fried Green Tomatoes, really the best use for green tomatoes that I know of. The contrast of the crispy cornmeal coating and the still-firm and green tomato are as perfect a combination as malt vinegar and salt are for fries. Every time I bite into one, I get that zing at the back and sides of my throat. Love that.

Next up would be the drunken spicy shrimp boil, which features one of my favorite spice mixtures, Old Bay. You could put Old Bay on just about anything and I'd probably eat it. Well, except for offal. I doubt anything could dress up tongue or kidneys so that I'd find them appetizing.

Finally, my favorite app, catfish strips. I would gladly eat these every day. True story, I'd never had catfish before my fist visit to Dinosaur. I guess that the pre-seasoned catfish fillets I saw in the market never looked appealing to me. Well shame on me. Catfish is wonderful, especially soaked in buttermilk, crusted with cornmeal and fried.

This is not, as far as I know, the exact recipe they use at Dinosaur*, but it is pretty easy and yields delicious, crispy and nicely seasoned catfish strips, perfect for a snack, a sandwich or a meal.

Fried Catfish Strips

  • ½ lb. fillet of catfish, cut into 4 strips
  • 1 - 1½ cups buttermilk
  • ½ cup cornmeal
  • 1¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon Old Bay
  • peanut oil for frying
  1. Put the catfish strips in a plastic container with a lid and pour in enough buttermilk to completely cover them. Cover securely and put in the fridge to marinate for 2 hours.
  2. Once the fish has finished marinating, mix together the cornmeal, flour and Old Bay in a shallow dish or pie plate. Take the fish out of the buttermilk and dredge in the cornmeal mixture until thoroughly covered. repeat with all catfish strips and set aside on a plate.
  3. Heat a 1/4 inch of oil in a skillet. When the oil starts to shimmer, carefully place each piece of fish into the oil and cook until light golden brown, about 4  - 5 minutes, then flip until the other side is also a nice light golden brown. Turn again and let the fish cook on each side another few minutes, letting the crust develop a deeper golden brown color. Whether or not the fish is cooked through depends on how thick the pieces are. Don't be afraid to cut into it to check if you aren't sure. The fish interior should flake with a fork and have lost its translucence. All told, my fish cooked for about 12 minutes total.
  4. Take out and let rest on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb some of the extra grease, then serve with your favorite tartar sauce. I like a simple mix of mayonnaise, sriracha and Old Bay.


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