The dinner party last night was an almost smashing success. Chipotle citrus cocktail sauce for the shrimp? Check. A pitcher of Pimm's No. 1 cups? Check. The succotash was just the teeniest bit gluey -- not sure if I should blame the okra, or the fact that I made it in the morning and reheated it -- and the peach pie was so juicy it turned into a peach swimming pool when we cut the first slice. (It tasted amazing, though, and a consultation with Little Sister, a.k.a. The Pie Whisperer, reveals that I might try using a touch less sugar next time.) I'm sharing the catfish recipe because a) R. and Little Sister both want it, and b) it's damn good. Try it sometime -- fast, easy, healthy, cheap. Nothing's better than that (well, excepting sex, chocolate and a $10,000 shopping spree, of course).
from The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins
I have been making this for years. It was actually a recipe that Mr. Ex-boyfriend made famous back when I still lived in Charlottesville, Virginia. We were renting an enormous 4 bedroom house that came with an equally enormous and tres chic 12-seat dining room table. Mr. Ex and I were suitably impressed by the table and longed to show it off to our friends, envisioning salon-like soirées every week. So one weekend, we invited 10 of our closest friends and proceeded to put on a show. We had no clue what we were doing. He wanted to make chicken, but one of our invitees didn't eat meat. "No problem!" says Mr. Optimist. "We'll just make fish, too." I nervously went along. He spent all day in the kitchen, merrily doubling recipes for the chicken, whipping up lime watercress sauce for the catfish (which I no longer make) and doing all manner of other mysterious boyfriend-cum-mad-scientist things. I set the table and cleaned house. When we finally sat down to dinner, everyone dug in, only to find that the chicken was raw inside. In doubling the recipe, Mr. Ex hadn't allowed any extra cooking time. Horrified, I swooped all the plates back to the kitchen, and we filled everyone up on catfish. Thankfully, it was delicious, and no one minded a bit. Ever since, this has been a standard in my repertoire. This recipe may be the only thing that survived of that relationship, come to think of it.
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
1 TBSP grated lemon zest
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp coarse salt
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 cup half-and-half
1/4 tsp sugar
6 catfish fillets (about 3 1/2 ounces each)
1 lemon, cut into 4 wedges
Preheat the oven to 450º. Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside.
On a plate, toss the bread crumbs, lemon zest, herbs, salt and red pepper. In a shallow bowl, lightly beat the half-and-half, egg and sugar.
Dip the fillets in the egg mixture, then in the crumb mixture, pressing to adhere crumbs to both sides.
Arrange the fillets on the baking sheet and bake 14 minutes, or till done. Serve with fresh lemon wedges.