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Throw a Proper Southern Fish Fry

Gabriella Vigoreaux

Throw a Proper Southern Fish Fry

If you’re looking for an alternative to your standard summer barbecue, may I suggest throwing an old-fashioned Southern-style fish fry? If you hate stuffy dinner parties and all the clean up that comes along with them, a fish fry may be the answer to your prayers.

In the South, a fish fry is typically a community event or something that is thrown for fundraisers, birthdays, weddings, or other large celebrations. However, with the right amount of planning, you can scale this delicious tradition down to suit whatever party size you have in mind. Here are some basic guidelines to keep in mind.

1. Get your hands on a deep-fat fryer: You’ve got lots of fish to fry, so don’t attempt this in a regular skillet.

2. Load up on your fish: Catfish is the traditional choice since it’s mild in flavor but firm enough to withstand frying. You can choose another mild, white fish, like flounder or bass. You’ll want to get about 1/2 lb to 1 lb of fish per person. Tere’s an easy catfish recipe below to double or triple to fit your needs.

3. Don’t forget the sides: The fish is the star, yes, but no fish fry is complete without french fries, hush puppies, and cole slaw.

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4. Have your condiments on the ready: You’ll definitlely want tartar sauce, hot sauce, cocktail sauce, plenty of lemon wedges, and PICKLES.

5. Ditch the fancy plates: Paper plates and disposable napkins and silverware are customary. Remember, this is a casual affair.

6. Quench your thirst: Beer and sweet tea. Enough said.

7. End on a sweet note: Serve up a classic Southern dessert like Coconut Southern Comfort CakePeach Cobbler, or Buttermilk-Lemon Chess Pie.

8. Put leftovers to good use: Got extra fish and slaw? You’ve got yourself a tasty sandwich for tomorrow’s lunch.

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FRIED CATFISH
Arnold’s chef Kahlil Arnold brines catfish before dredging it in seasoned cornmeal to keep it super moist.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons plus 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 3 tablespoons hot pepper sauce
  • 6 5–7-ounce U.S.-farmed catfish fillets
  • 1 1/2 cups white cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 cups (about) vegetable oil

Preparation: 

Whisk 3 tablespoons salt, hot pepper sauce, and 8 cups hot water in a large bowl until salt dissolves. Chill in freezer until cold, about 30 minutes. Place catfish in brine, cover, and refrigerate for 3 hours.

Whisk cornmeal, next 5 ingredients, and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Attach deep-fry thermometer to the side of a 10” cast-iron skillet or other large heavy skillet. Add oil to come a little less than halfway up side of skillet. Heat over medium heat until thermometer reads 335°F.

Rinse catfish; pat dry. Dredge catfish in cornmeal mixture, shaking off excess. Working with 2 fillets at a time, fry catfish, turning halfway through, until golden brown and crispy, 10–12 minutes per batch. Transfer fish to paper towels to drain.

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