A Summer Fish Fry With Joy McCabe


As we enter the dog days of summer; the hot days of July and August;  the countdown to football season and tailgating; I asked Joy Georges McCabe, my go-to person in Knoxville, what she likes to cook during this time of year.

Joy’s answer…

“There’s nothing better than a fish fry. Grilling hot dogs, hamburgers, and a good steak are perfectly fine, but a fish fry is guaranteed fun!

food 2014 Catfish Fry outside table with Joy and Dixie

 Of course catching and cleaning your own fish is the best way to get the freshest fish,

Joy McCabe holding bass at the pond house photo by Joy McCabe

 but buying fresh catfish fillets is a close second. Don’t be confused if you’re thinking of the catfish bottom dwellers. Catfish sold in seafood markets are farm raised with a milder more delicate taste. Another advantage to catfish fillets, no bones!”

Joy coats her catfish with cornmeal in a brown paper bag,

Catfish filets floured in paper sack photo by Frank Cobb Photography

 then fries it in an old cast iron pot on the grill outside.  No mess and odors inside.  She uses a frying/candy thermometer to keep the oil at 350 degrees.

Catfish frying in cast iron skillet photo by Frank Cobb Photography

Ingredients

  • 6-8 fresh catfish filets
  • Salt
  • 3 cups cornmeal
  • Peanut oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Cut catfish filets in half or thirds if desired.
  2. Salt each side of the fish well.
  3. Place cornmeal in a brown paper grocery bag then add the catfish. Fold down the top of the bag and shake to coat the catfish with the cornmeal.
  4. Fill a cast iron skillet about half full with peanut oil. Using a frying/candy thermometer, heat the oil until it reaches 350 degrees.
  5. Shake off excess cornmeal and place the fish in the hot oil careful not to overcrowd the pan.
  6. Fry 4 minutes for each inch of the filet’s thickness, until golden brown.
  7. Turn the fish half way through the cooking process.
  8. The fish is done when its thickest part registers 135 degrees internal temperature on an instant read thermometer.
  9. Remove cooked fish and drain on a paper towel.

Notes

Normally I cook my catfish outside on the burner built in next to my grill. Cooking outside is easy with less clean up. A cast iron skillet is a must; it promotes even heating and doesn’t cool down too quickly when the cold fish is added to the hot oil. Use a clip on frying/candy thermometer that will clip in the side of the skillet. It’s the best way to know you are cooking at the correct temperature. I like using peanut oil because it fries really well at a high heat. It also adds a bit of flavor to your fish. When I say salt your fish well, I mean just that. Fish needs salt for flavor and fish that isn’t salted enough will be too bland. When I place fish in the hot skillet I pretend my pan is a clock and start at twelve o’clock working around clockwise. That way when it’s time to turn the fish, I’ll know to turn the first piece of fish that started cooking. Be careful not to splatter the hot oil. It will burn you. Instead of dropping battered fish in the oil, you can use a spatula to assist you in placing the fish in the hot oil. You may have to cook in batches depending on the size or your skillet. Do not crowd the skillet with the fish. This could lower the frying temperature. Cook your hushpuppies in the same oil after you’ve fried your fish. That way you’ll get some of the flavor from the fish in your hush puppies Don’t wear flip flops when frying fish. I’ve learned the hard way that tiny grease splatters will land on your feet. Ouch!

By Joy McCabe@joymccabe.com

KathyMillerTime

Recipe Printed from www.kathymillertime.com

Joy drains the fried catfish and hushpuppies on a wire grate over paper towels to keep them crisp and crunchy, not allowing the grease to absorb back into the fish.

Fried Catfish and Hushpuppies draining of grate photo by Joy McCabe

“The origin of the hush puppy is an interesting story. According to Mrs. H. R. Dull from her 1941 edition of Southern Cooking, “Hush puppy is a Southern dish cooked at all fish frys and hunting trips. At first they were made to feed the hungry, howling hounds or hunting dogs to keep them quiet, hence ‘hush puppy.’ Later they were more carefully made and eaten by the entire party. This old colonial custom has been handed down to the present day.”

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped green onions
  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Peanut oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Sift together the cornmeal, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl.
  2. Stir in the onions, buttermilk, and egg until thoroughly mixed.
  3. Fill a cast iron skillet half way with oil.
  4. Using a frying/candy thermometer heat the oil to 350 degrees.
  5. It’s preferable to use the same skillet and oil where you’ve just fried fish.
  6. Gently drop the batter by spoonfuls, measuring about two teaspoons, into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown turning once.
  7. Drain on a grate over a pan lined with paper towels and serve hot.

Notes

I use an iced tea spoon, which has a long handle, for dipping and placing the hush puppy batter in the oil. I also dip the spoon in a cup of water after dropping each pup in the oil to prevent the batter from sticking to the spoon. Be careful not to splatter the oil. It will burn you. Instead of dropping the hush puppy batter, you’re actually placing the batter in the oil. Turn the hush puppies earlier than you think. When frying they tend to get bottom heavy and will not always turn easily.

By Joy McCabe@joymccabe.com

KathyMillerTime

Recipe Printed from www.kathymillertime.com

Fried catfish and Hushpuppies on a serving platter photo by Joy McCabe

“Bringing it all together is delicious tangy Chinese slaw, creamy cheese grits and a relish try, which is a must have.”

Catfish Fry table spread with blue and white tablecloth and serving pieces photo by Joy McCabe

Ingredients

  • 1 16 ounce bag slaw mix
  • 3 green onions, sliced (I use ½ sweet onion, chopped)
  • 1 three ounce package oriental flavored ramen noodles with seasoning pack
  • 1 six ounce package slivered almonds
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup sugar or Splenda that measures like sugar
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Crumble the dry ramen noodles onto a large baking sheet, add the almonds, sesame seeds, and bake until toasted about 10-15 minutes, being careful not to scorch the sesame seeds.
  3. Allow toasted almonds, sesame seeds, and noodles to cool.
  4. Place cabbage and onions in a large salad bowl and set aside.
  5. In another bowl whisk together the oil, sugar, vinegar, and salt with the contents of the season pack from the ramen noodles.
  6. Pour the dressing over the slaw, add the toasted noodles, almonds, and sesame seeds just before serving, and toss to combine.

By Joy McCabe@joymccabe.com

KathyMillerTime

Recipe Printed from www.kathymillertime.com

Joy stirring the Cheese Grits photo by Frank Cobb Photography

Ingredients

  • 6 cups water
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3-4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups uncooked quick grits
  • ½ stick butter
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Instructions

  1. In a 6 quart stock pot bring water, cream and salt to a boil. Watch your pot so the liquid does not boil over.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium and slowly whisk in grits stirring to combine.
  3. Stir with the whisk continuously until grits are well mixed.
  4. Cover and cook for approximately 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add more water if necessary.
  6. Grits are done when they are creamy and smooth. Stir in the butter and cheese. Serve hot.

Notes

Use quick grits, do not use instant grits. For a lighter version substitute skim milk or fat free half and half for the cream and omit the butter.

By Joy McCabe@joymccabe.com

KathyMillerTime

Recipe Printed from www.kathymillertime.com

 “For my relish try I like fresh sliced tomatoes, sliced sweet onions like a Vidalia, your favorite pickles, olives and I recommend pickled okra too.”

Relish Tray with Catfish Fry photo by Frank Cobb Photography

Of course no fish fry would be complete without Southern Sweet Iced Tea.

Catfish Fry and Sweet Iced Tea photo by Frank Cobb Photography

 Joy says, “Sweet tea is the main reason I grow fresh mint. Spearmint is my favorite. There’s nothing more refreshing on a hot day and nothing goes better with your fish fry than a glass of sweet iced tea with plenty of ice, mint, and lemon. I can remember my sister and me coming in for dinner after playing outside on a hot summer day and downing a tall glass of iced tea before me mother even got food on the table. Fortunately she always had enough tea to refill our glasses many times.”

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon (4 quarts) water
  • 4 family size tea bags
  • 2 ½ to 3 ½ cups sugar
  • Fresh mint and lemon wedges for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a 6 quart or larger pot bring one gallon of cool water to a boil.
  2. Once the water is boiling turn off the heat and remove the pot from the heat.
  3. Place the tea bags in the water, cover, and steep for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove tea bags and add sugar.
  5. Allow tea to cool and serve over ice in individual glasses garnished with mint and lemon.

Notes

Add the sugar while the tea is hot so it will dissolve. For a lighter version use Splenda that measures like sugar. The Splenda sweetened tea is better when allowed to cool completely in the refrigerator before serving. Something about it being cold disguises the taste of an artificial sweetener.

By Joy McCabe@joymccabe.com

KathyMillerTime

Recipe Printed from www.kathymillertime.com

“For dessert make my Marriage Proposal Chocolate Mousse Pie. If you’re wondering how this pie got its name, here’s the story. Many years ago when I was twenty something, single, and living in Dallas, Texas, my roommate and I both loved to entertain. We had our set menu for dinner parties and often served this pie for dessert. It’s so unbelievably luscious that we received several marriage proposals. Of course it was all in fun, but who knows?”

Chocolate Mousse Pie (Marriage Proposal Pie photo by Joy McCabe

Oreo Cookie Crumb Crust

  • 23 Oreo cookies
  • 3/4 cup melted butter

Pie Filling

  • ¾ cup milk
  • 2 ½ cup miniature marshmallows (one small bag)
  • 8 ounce Hershey bar with almonds
  • 2 squares bitter chocolate (Hershey’s unsweetened baking chocolate)
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 pint whipping cream (whipped stiff but not butter)

For the Crust

  1. Process Oreo cookies in food processor until crumbs. Add melted butter and process. Place crumbs in 10 inch pie pan pressing firmly into bottom and sides of pie pan. Cool before adding filling.

For the Filling

  1. In a heavy pot add milk, marshmallows, Hershey bar (broken up), and bitter chocolate.
  2. Cook, stirring constantly until melted.
  3. Add cocoa and cool totally.
  4. Fold in most of whipped cream, saving some to decorate top.
  5. Pour filling into Oreo cookie crumb crust.
  6. Decorate with remaining whipped cream around top and outside edge of pie.
  7. Chill pie at least 3-4 hours before serving. Can be made ahead and frozen, if freezing wait to decorate with whipped cream.

By Joy McCabe@joymccabe.com

KathyMillerTime

Recipe Printed from www.kathymillertime.com

I asked Joy about her beautiful blue and white table presentation.  She said,

“I love blue and white china and have been collecting it forever.  I bought my first piece in Greece in 1981 and that got me started.  I still love it because it always makes me happy to see it, to use it and to serve from it.  As an added bonus, my friends and family know a piece of blue and white china will always be a welcome gift!”

Joy McCabe's blue and white tablescape photo by Frank Cobb Photography

 Thank you, Joy, for sharing your passion for cooking and entertaining.  I hope all have appreciated the “frying” tips.

Joy has shared many tailgating recipes from her cooking arsenal. Watch for Joy’s cooking segments on WBIR Station, in Knoxville, Tennessee.  She also teaches a cooking class at The Glass Bazaar in Knoxville.

Visit Joy’s website,  joymccabe.com for more mouth watering recipes.

All photos courtesy of Frank Cobb Photography.

We will travel to Knoxville for the Tennessee/ Florida game, October 4.

Watch for our tailgating stories as we visit Joy’s Tailgate and some of our Vol Navy friends.

 I welcome your comments, recipes and any inside information on your favorite tailgating spots.

Come celebrate with me.  I’ll save you a seat at the table.

 

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