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Monday, March 28, 2011

Challenging Catfish

This month's Four Ingredient Challenge requires that I use freshwater fish filet, apples, broccoli and sourdough bread. Now, this set of ingredients is a challenge. I don't like the idea of sourdough with fish, it isn't a combination I would normally use. Yes, yes, I know, everyone loves a grilled sourdough crab sandwich with cheese, that is an abomination created for tourists in San Francisco. But, this is what I decided might work.

I give you Kettle Fried Panko-crusted Catfish with Pecan Sourdough Waffles, Apple-Broccoli slaw and Spicy Mayo Sauce.

The things to do, well, I started four days in advance with a sourdough starter, for a sourdough waffle. For those who have followed along for any length of time, you know about my last foray into sourdough starters, poolish and exploding jars. You will notice, this container is not a screw on lid container. I figured the waffle along with the panko crusted catfish would give me a great play on the variety of flavors I needed to work with. From there, it was a simple thing to toss together a waffle batter and some pecan maple syrup. Here is the starter and a shot of the batter.

Then there was the preparation of the slaw and salad component for this dish. I really wanted to offset the heavy nature of the waffle and the fish, this was to be where the apple and broccoli worked into the plan. I finely shredded the apple and left it in acidulated ice water.  The broccoli stems were peeled, finely shredded and then put into boiling water for 3 minutes, then dumped into the ice water with the apples.  Finally, I added some finely shredded daikon, to add a counter point to the vegetal and fruity flavors. The vegetables were then tossed with the Nuoc Mam Salad Dressing. This was set aside.

Since I only needed a small portion of the dressing, I then made a simple vinaigrette with the dressing and some fresh extra virgin California Arbequina olive oil. This was dressed onto some baby arugula. I have to say, a Classic vinaigrette made with the Nuoc Mam Salad Dressing on waffles absolutely rocks.

The fish was to get something a little unusual for me, a lard rub. Consisting of duck and pig lard, mixed with olive oil and spices, then painted onto the fish, this was to add some richness, flavor and an added crisping agent to the panko mix. Here is what that looked like.

The fish was painted with this lard rub, then coated with a mix of panko, corn flour, pastry flour and some salt and pepper. This was then sprayed with a little of the lard rub to aid in crisping the coating.  This was too much, as the fish as a little thin in the filet and there was just too much flavor. Yes, I do not like fish, but, I do not like over-flavored fish even more. This would have been good on a thicker cut, or perhaps some cod chunks. Here is what a skinny little catfish filet looks like.

Here the fish is shown with the breading cured on. This is important to get the breading to stick to the filet while on the grill. This would work when frying as well.

Overall, despite the overpowering breading on the fish, the overall flavors worked exceptionally well and it turns out that sourdough waffles work great with fish. And even better with arugula salad and Nuoc Mam Slaw, the sweetness and crispness contrasting beautifully with the earthy and spicy flavor of the arugula and the variety of flavors presented by the slaw vegetables and fruit. I think this done with a medallion of ling cod without the panko would make a terrific appetizer or first course for a dinner.

Some notable recipes:

Spicy Mayo Dip
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Lucky Dog hot sauce (or other thick flavorful spicy condiment)
1 tablespoon finely diced shallot
Fresh ground white pepper (I use Phu Quoc white pepper)

Combine ingredients and allow to sit in refrigerator for at least one hour to mellow and blend.

Lard Rub
3 tablespoons duck/pig lard
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed into oil, discard solids
1/2 teaspoon no-salt chile powder
kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Combine ingredients over low heat just to liquify lard and whisk to combine. Allow to cool to room temperature, overall texture to me just liquid enough to cling to fish.

Nuoc Mam Salad Dressing
3 tablespoon Red Boat Fish Sauce (I used the 40°N since it is not cooked)
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 large clove garlic minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh herbs

In a small jar with a lid, combine all the ingredients. Cover and shake well to dissolve the sugar. Taste for seasoning. 

Note:  Just a note about brands and my references to them, I am not compensated for the use of these items, I have no commercial connection to these items either. I use them for their quality or singular nature. The Lucky Dog sauce is unique to what I can find on the market locally, neither a hot sauce or a salsa, it is a wonderful condiment with a serious bite. The Red Boat sauce has no sugar, preservatives or additives, such that I can control the sweetness and balance for myself, other brands will vary as Red Boat is, to my knowledge, the only product like this on the market. 

Larry Gaian of The BBQ Grail - Entry Here
The BBQ Grail website was created in 2007, initially to document the author’s quest to find the perfect backyard BBQ experience. Since that time The BBQ Grail has become one of the more popular BBQ blogs on the internet and is listed on as one of the top BBQ blogs.

Paul Haight of No Excuses BBQ – Entry Here
The No Excuses BBQ website was started in January of 2009 as a way to record the author’s goal of cooking outdoors at least once a week throughout the year and showing the results to the world.  Somewhere along the way things got out of control…
Marc Van Der Wouw of Grill Adventures - Entry Here
Grilladventures by broadcastmarc is started on march of 2010.I started the BBQ thing when I was 30,before that we eat a lot outside.have fun,but when the kids came in our life We start serious cooking.Most of it is realy healthy I think;-)The grill has a special place in my heart,We love to do things outside..Everything I make is an adventure,and sometimes we use the books.We try to grill as much as we can year round.

Hanneke Eerden of The Dutchess Cooks – Entry Here
The Dutchess Cooks was started in 2010. After years of cooking, grilling, baking and reading other people’s blogs, I thought “why not start my own blog??” And I did, in 2010, but already after a short period of time, a blog wasn’t enough, and I started my own website. It’s not my goal to publish or come up with fancy and difficult recipes:  just good and delicious food with an international twist! Straight from my plate to yours!


  1. Kudos to you for making your own sourdough. Next time I am down in the Bay Area I'm going to have to go be one of those tourists you mention and pick up some sourdough starter from Fisherman's Wharf so that I won't be constrained by whatever I can find in the local grocery store.

    Great looking meal!

  2. wooh! you made your own sourdough! Great job :-)

  3. Sourdough is easy to start at home, hard for me to keep going. You can get a good sourdough starter from the air in your kitchen and the four itself.

  4. That looks amazing. That would be a huge hit among the Bay Area food crowd. Crossing chicken and waffles with seafood and Asian accents? Awesome.

  5. Thanks, I got plans for the salad component I explored here.