June 2018
Homeplace & Community

Chef's Corner

When it comes to cooking, strive for enjoyment rather than perfection.

I have a neighbor, let’s call him John, who lives close to the elementary school in my neighborhood that is on the way home for a majority of the children in the area. John really likes his grass. He takes time to meticulously cut his lawn diagonally and even ropes it off so it remains pristine. To be fair, it’s a nice lawn. Yesterday, on the way home, a few kids stepped on John’s grass. He didn’t like that very much and took pictures of the kids, all around 8 years old, found out where they lived and complained to their parents. As I said, John likes his grass. He feels as though a lawn should remain perfect and is a thing to look at and to accentuate the home. That’s his prerogative … it’s his yard after all.

My yard isn’t perfect; it has dead spots, a little dirt and even some rocks. There are balls in my yard, bikes, maybe even a little trash at times (sorry neighbor!). My lawn isn’t groomed. If it was, it wouldn’t look like it for long. I don’t mind kids stepping in my yard, playing football, soccer or just taking a shortcut. I prefer laughter and enjoyment over a look of perfection. It’s my yard … my choice.

Some folks are like John when it comes to cooking. They feel like they need to follow the recipe exactly and seek perfection. When things don’t work out for them, they may get frustrated or upset when things didn’t turn out the way they anticipated or look like it did in the picture in the book. I like to think of cooking like I think of my yard: It’s there to be enjoyed and not to be taken too seriously. Recipes are a guide, an outline, to me; one that can take on tweaks and alterations. I’ve found, as long as you’re cooking with a little love for your family, friends or neighbor, I promise, everything will be perfect – even if it doesn’t look that way.



Thin Sliced Catfish


Servings: 4
2 pounds catfish fillets
Oil, for frying, such as vegetable, peanut, or canola
1½ cups yellow cornmeal
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon Cajun seasoning blend
1 large lemon, cut into wedges

Wash and inspect catfish fillets, removing any imperfections. On a raised cutting board, lay a fillet. Using a razor-sharp, thin-blade boning knife, start at fillet’s tail end and move knife along middle, slicing fish into a long, thin strip. If there is skin attached, slice meat just above it and discard skin. Continue until all fillets are thinly sliced.

In a deep fryer or large pot, add oil to a depth of 4-6 inches. Heat to 375°, as recorded on a fry thermometer.

In a large, metal mixing bowl, add cornmeal, flour and seasoning. Combine. Add a batch of fish fillets and toss to coat evenly; shaking off any excess coating. Add fish to hot oil and fry until golden brown. Remove to a wire rack over paper towels and salt immediately. Continue frying quickly in batches until all are fried golden brown delicious (be careful not to overcook).

Garnish with lemon wedges. Serve immediately on a platter with shoestring French fries, coleslaw and tartar sauce.


Jerk Catfish



Servings: 4
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic
1 Tablespoon sesame seeds
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1½ teaspoons ground allspice
1½ teaspoons dried thyme
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
1¼ teaspoons salt, divided
¼ teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne
2½ Tablespoons cooking oil
½ teaspoon vinegar
2 pounds catfish fillets

In a blender, puree onion, garlic and sesame seeds with brown sugar, allspice, thyme, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt, black pepper, cayenne, oil and vinegar. Heat broiler. Lightly oil a broiler pan or baking sheet.

Sprinkle both sides of catfish fillets with remaining salt. On prepared baking sheet, place skinned-side down. Evenly spread spice mixture over fish.

Broil about 6 inches from the heat if possible, until well-browned and just done, about 5 minutes for ¾-inch-thick fillets.



Catfish Etoufee



Servings: 2-3
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 large onion, sliced
1 cup sliced celery
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 (14-ounce) can stewed tomatoes
Pinch cayenne pepper, optional
1 pound catfish fillets, cut into 4 portions
¼ teaspoon Creole seasoning
¼ cup reduced-fat sour cream (optional … not traditional, but
   I like the creaminess and zip it brings)

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add flour and cook, stirring until the flour is brown and fragrant, about 1 minute. Add onion, celery, garlic, bell pepper, tomatoes and cayenne. Bring to a simmer. Cover and cook on medium-low, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very soft, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle catfish with Creole seasoning and place in saucepan. Reduce heat to maintain a low simmer, cover and cook until catfish is just cooked through and opaque, 8-10 minutes more. Remove from heat. With a slotted spoon, remove catfish. Stir sour cream into vegetables. Serve catfish over stewed vegetables.


Brian Taylor CEC, CCE is the corporate executive chef for SouthFresh Farms.