Friday, August 19, 2011

Half-Fried Catfish Fingers with Summer Vegetable Saute

I first published this recipe as Half-Fried Catfish with a Summer Vegetable Saute on Blogcritics.

I was craving an array of veggies tonight and luckily, my local market complied by offering an incredible bounty of flavors, colors and textures.  I ultimately opted for zucchini, corn, okra, onion, cheery tomatoes, and arugula, dressed with a bit of thyme and garlic.  I couldn’t think of anything that spelled out summer and complimented the vegetables more than some crispy panko-crusted catfish, served simply with lemon.  It turned out to be a truly amazing summer meal – a veritable feast for the eyes and the palate!  To lighten it up a bit, I flash-fried the fish in just a bit of canola oil to get a nice crispy texture on the outside, and then finished it in the oven, so that it did not have a chance to absorb much more oil.  It was sublime! We rounded out the meal with a locally sourced oak-finished chardonnay and some canary melon and watermelon cubes, tossed with chopped mint.  Perfect!  I hope you enjoy a summer dish like this in the near future and you can definitely play around with the vegetable choices and fish options – rockfish, tilapia, trout, snapper, or even seared scallops would all have been great with this.  I love okra, but the dish would stand on its own with out it.  If you want to make it more indulgent, I’d suggest cooking a few slices of bacon, removing them form the pan, and then sautéing the vegetables in the bacon grease, adding the crumbled bacon to the finished dish just before serving.  Enjoy!

  For the Fish:

1 ½ lbs. catfish or other flaky white fish fillets, cut into strips or fingers
1 egg, beaten
¾ cup panko bread crumbs
1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
Salt and Pepper to Taste
2 Tbsp Canola Oil

For the Vegetable Saute:

 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Butter
¼ sweet onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
8 sprigs of Thyme, leaves removed from stems
6-7 okra, sliced – tops and tips discarded
1 zucchini, cut into ¼ inch rounds and then quartered
3 ears of corn, kernels cut off the cob
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 cup arugula or baby spinach leaves
Salt & Pepper to Taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Chop all the vegetables and set aside.  Next, season the panko bread crumbs with the salt, pepper and Old Bay seasoning.  Then, the prep fish fillets, by salting and peppering them.  Dip fish into the beaten egg and then into the seasoned bread crumb mixture.  Heat the oil in a large nonstick pan, and then quickly sauté the fish on both sides.  Remove from the pan and place in a glass baking dish sprayed with cooking spray and put in the oven to finish cooking for about 15 minutes.

Wipe out the pan and add the olive oil and butter, melting over medium high heat.  Add the okra, onions, thyme, and garlic first.  Saute for a few minutes until soft and lightly caramelized.  Add the zucchini and corn kernels and continue sautéing.  Once the zucchini is cooked to your liking, add the tomato halves and arugula leaves.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.   Spoon the veggie mixture onto a platter and top with the cooked fish fillets.  Squeeze a bit of lemon on each fish filet and season with a bit more salt and pepper.  Garnish with more lemon wedges and serve immediately.

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