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Catfish tips and dips: Jack Hennessy’s ‘Braising the Wild’

Jack Hennessy serves up catfish tips with his recipe this week in “Braising the Wild”

Resized/Sun-Times
Catfish tips and dips comes well served in Jack Hennessy’s “Braising the Wild.”
Dale Bowman

Tips have a double meaning for Jack Hennessy when he serves up Catfish Tips and Dips this week in his ”Braising the Wild,” part of the expanded two pages of outdoors in Sports Saturday for the Sun-Times.

Here is the recipe:

CATFISH TIPS AND A DIP

My grandmother, who grew up in Eastern Kentucky, was a diehard catfisher. She loved fishing for them, and she loved cooking and eating them—scummy-water taste and all. Growing up, catfish was far from my favorite, though over the years I have learned to appreciate the flavor more with some useful tips I want to share.

Kill the fish and drain of blood before it expires. I try to do this with all my fish, as it results in a cleaner-tasting fish void of residual blood in the flesh. This may mean having to pack a cooler of ice to keep the fish fresh after draining.

If the catfish is over 5 pounds, some fishermen cut of the head and hang upside-down to thoroughly drain the fish of blood.

Consider trimming off the red flesh (the darker muscles) close to the skin, as that meat can taste muddy, especially if the fish is larger and was caught in stagnant water.

Channel catfish tend to taste cleaner, though any fish living in stagnant warm muddy water should sit in a buttermilk soak for at least a few hours and for as long as 12 hours, I’d say. When in doubt, soak in buttermilk longer, is my recommendation.

Below is a simple recipe for frying catfish, along with a great-tasting dip made possible with Firebee Spicy Honey (available on Amazon or FirebeeHoney.com). If you prefer to just use honey but still want spice, I’d recommend using the same measurements below—just add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne. (It won’t taste exactly the same but will still be good.)

Please know this recipe would work for any store-bought or wild-caught white-flesh fish, including sunfish, walleye, perch, etc.

Ingredients (make two servings):

Two 8-ounce catfish fillets, skinned and cubed

1 cup flour

2 tablespoons your favorite fish spice mix

1-1/2 cups buttermilk

Dip:

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons Firebee Spicy Honey

1/2 teaspoon stoneground mustard

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

To prepare:

Cut catfish into 1-inch-by-1-inch cubes and soak in buttermilk for minimum 3 hours (longer if from a bigger fish or one caught from muddy, non- or slow-moving water).

In a deep sauté pan, heat half inch of oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix flour and spices in large bowl or deep platter.

Once oil is heated, toss catfish through flour dredge. Shake off any excess flour. Four pieces is ideal amount for pan frying since more can create steam and result in less-crispy texture. Turn pieces with tongs once underside turns golden. Remove with all sides are golden and fish is cooked thoroughly.

Mix dip ingredients and enjoy dipping those catfish nuggets!