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Southern Specialty Showcases Comfort Food

Southern Specialty Showcases Comfort Food

When a cold snap hits and cabin fever sets in, spending time in the kitchen creating delicious comfort foods can be just what the doctor ordered. Southern comfort food immediately brings to mind dishes like chicken and dumplings or grits, but this recipe for “Fried Catfish Po’ Babies With Creole Rémoulade Sauce” from Denise Gee’s

When a cold snap hits and cabin fever sets in, spending time in the kitchen creating delicious comfort foods can be just what the doctor ordered. Southern comfort food immediately brings to mind dishes like chicken and dumplings or grits, but this recipe for “Fried Catfish Po’ Babies With Creole Rémoulade Sauce” from Denise Gee’s “Southern Appetizers” (Chronicle Books) shows that southerners have an entire catalog of drool-worthy dishes up their sleeves.

Fried Catfish Po’ Babies With Creole Rémoulade Sauce
Serves 12
• 12 4-5 ounce or six 9-ounce thin-cut, farm-raised catfish fillets, halved
• 11⁄2 cups buttermilk
• 1⁄2 to 1 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)

Creole Rémoulade Sauce
• 1 to 11⁄4 cups mayonnaise
• 1⁄4 to 1⁄3 cup Creole mustard
• 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
• 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
• 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
• 1 to 2 shallots, minced
• 1 teaspoon mild hot sauce
• 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
• 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

• 1 16-ounce bag coleslaw mix
• Peanut oil for frying
• 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 cup plain yellow cornmeal
• 1⁄2 cup cake flour or Wondra flour
• 11⁄2 teaspoons salt
• 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
• 1⁄2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder
• 1 teaspoon paprika (optional)
• 12 bolillo rolls or French-style rolls

Rinse the catfish fillets and dry using paper towels. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and hot sauce (if using). Place the catfish in a single layer in a 9-by-13 baking dish; pour the buttermilk mixture over the fish. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours, turning once. (A buttermilk marinade enhances the flavor of the fish.)

To make the sauce: In a medium bowl, combine the mayonnaise, Creole mustard, horseradish, parsely, lemon juice, paprika, shallots, hot sauce, salt, black pepper, and cayenne (if using), and stir to mix. Adjust the seasonings as desired. (Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 day.)

In a medium bowl, combine half of the rémoulade and the coleslaw mix; stir to combine. Cover and chill the slaw and remaining sauce at least 1 hour, or overnight, to let the flavors meld.

Let the fish fillets stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. In an electric fryer, large Dutch oven, or deep cast-iron skillet, add peanut oil to a depth of 2 to 3 inches. Heat to 360 F.

In a pie plate or shallow dish, stir to combine the cornmeal, flour, salt, black pepper, Cajun seasoning, cayenne, garlic powder, and paprika (if using).

Remove the fish from the buttermilk mixture, allowing excess liquid to drip off. Dredge the fillets in the cornmeal mixture, shaking off the excess.
Fry the fillets, in batches of two whole ones or four small portions, until golden brown, turning once, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the fish from the oil with a large slotted spoon.
Transfer the cooked fillets to a wire rack fitted into a rimmed pan. Keep warm, uncovered, in a 225 F oven until ready to serve.
Cut the rolls in half and, if necessary, lightly toast them (brushing the interiors with olive oil or melted butter, if desired).
Add 1⁄3 cup of the slaw to each roll and top with a catfish portion. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the remaining rémoulade on the catfish and top with the upper half of the roll. Serve ASAP.

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