Until my relationship w/Mrs. Hackknife, my idea of fried fish was pretty much limited to Mrs. Paul's and the Gorton's fisherman. My mother-in-law cooks a tasty fried fish using a cracker crumb breading that I've tried to duplicate a couple of times here in the commissary with marginal success. Fast forward to last month when my latest issue of Saveur had a recipe listed for Creole-style whole fried fish that sounded good and appeared to be pretty simple Creole-style Fried Fish. So, with fresh cabbage, red potatoes, and white cornmeal on hand (courtesy of the weekly farmbox), I set out to prepare a little fish fry. The recipe calls for whole, head-on fish, but since I don't have a trusted seafood purveyor nearby and don't have the intestinal fortitude to consume bluegills gathered from the retention pond back yonder, I picked up some catfish fillets from Dominick's (on special at $5.99/pound) instead.
A couple of optional bacon grease dollops are supposed to impart smokiness to the final product; as we usually just eat turkey bacon around here, I was only able to scrounge up about a teaspoon of turkey bacon grease to add to my cooking oil (don't know if it really did anything or not, but it was fun to have a little glass bowl of congealed bacon grease in the fridge for a few days - I felt so Paula Deen-ish). My electric frypan was able to hold 4 fillets at a time, so I cooked the fish up in 2 batches and, boy, did it turn out good and light, with very little greasiness. This exercise was simple enough that I think it will be our go-to fried fish for the duration.
For the side dishes, I just boiled the red potatoes (no added seasonings other than salt) and threw together a creamed cabbage using a recipe from Joy of Cooking. The cabbage was also really easy and really tasty (see recipe below).
Boil in a large stockpot:
4 quarts water
1 1/2 Tbsp salt
Remove the outer leaves from:
1 lb. green cabbage, preferably Savoy
Cut cabbage into quarters, remove core, and cut crosswise into thin slices. Cook uncovered for 3 minutes, then drain and press out the excess water. Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a large skillet. Add the cabbage along with:
1/2 cup creme fraiche or heavy cream
1 Tbsp. snipped fresh dill, 1 tsp. caraway seeds, or 10 juniper berries
1 tsp. salt
ground black pepper to taste
Toss well, then simmer until cabbage is tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with several drops of dry sherry or red wine vinegar and salt to taste.