Down where I live in the deep South, fish fries are as common as barbecues. Catfish or the fisherman’s most recent catch are battered and fried. Side dishes almost always include fried hushpuppies, cheese grits and coleslaw.
Diving into a crispy pile of fried fish is tasty, but I wanted to adapt this meal into a week night family supper. My friend, Susan Crocker, told me that she used hushpuppy mix as a breading for pan-fried fish, and I took her idea further to develop this oven-fried version.
Catfish or Tilapia fillets are the perfect fish for a quick meal. Dipped in egg or melted butter, then into prepared hushpuppy mix, the fillets bake in less than 10 minutes. Other thin, white fish fillets such as sole, flounder or trout would work equally well.
Whether you dip your fish in egg, egg white or butter depends on your dietary concerns. If you use egg white or a beaten egg you will need to drizzle melted butter over the top so the fish will brown. Alternately, spray the fillets with non-stick cooking spray to help them crisp up. Opt for the melted butter or margarine if you want the crispiest coating.
If you’re unfamiliar with grits, a staple in the South, cheese grits are a good way to develop a taste for them. A cup of stone ground grits combined with 4 cups of boiling water and a half teaspoon of salt will take about 25 minutes to cook. Add salt and pepper to taste, along with a pinch of cayenne and nutmeg. Then, layer them in a greased casserole dish with shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Bake, covered, until bubbly and stir to distribute the cheese before serving.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Spread hushpuppy mix on a plate and spray a baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.
- 4 catfish fillets
- 1 egg, beaten, 1 egg white or 2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine
- 3/4 cup prepared hushpuppy mix additional butter or non-stick cooking spray
When oven is hot, dip fillets in beaten egg, egg white or melted butter or margarine, then dredge well in the hushpuppy mix. Place on prepared baking pan. If fish was dipped in egg or egg white, drizzle each fillet with a bit of melted butter or margarine, or spray tops with non-stick spray.
Place near top of oven and bake for 5 to 6 minutes. (Fillets more than 1/2-inch thick will take up to 8 minutes.) Serve with lemon wedges.
Makes 4 servings.