Tartar Slaw with Fried Catfish. These recipes are honed down to only the most necessary ingredients.
Springtime is around the corner and we’re thinking it’s about time to get out the “party pot.” That’s our new name for the turkey fryer. All it took was a simple attitude adjustment and name change and suddenly we were heating vats of oil, frying all kinds of things, and saying “come on over” more often.
Our favorite party pot party for a cool crisp spring or fall day is an icy keg of beer, piles of catfish fingers and French fries, and tartar slaw. This frying spectacle is not a sit-down party where everyone actually eats together. It’s a grazing, grab a handful while they’re hot, pour another beer, party.
The party pot tradition began for us years ago when we offered to fry our friends’ turkeys for Thanksgiving and needed something to serve as a snack. We couldn’t carve the holiday birds, so we bought a load of catfish and potatoes to throw into the hot oil. Now we rarely bother frying turkey!
Serve the catfish as-is, or stuff it in rolls topped with our famous tartar slaw. And, yes, you can hand cut the potatoes, but weighing the work-to-fun ratio, we’re okay with frozen fries. They fry up beautifully as well. Don’t have a turkey-sized party pot? A heavy pot on the kitchen stove works fine. Triple, quadruple the recipes to fit your crowd.
Now back to the tartar slaw. This recipe contains the three important components for any slaw–sweetness (sweet pickle relish), tartness (lemon juice) and creaminess (mayo) plus salt. That’s all you really need to enjoy with the fish, however, feel free to complicate the slaw if you must. Think about adding a minced shallot, a spoonful of chopped dill pickle relish or cornichons, a spoonful of dijon mustard or even a couple of tablespoonfuls of briny chopped capers. But, remember, as long as you have the basic flavor components, it will be fabulous.
- For the Catfish:
- Vegetable oil for frying
- 6 to 10 catfish fillets, cut into 1 ½ to 2-inch wide strips
- About 1 to 1 1/2 cups self-rising cornmeal mix
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- For the Slaw:
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ½ cup sweet pickle relish
- Salt, to taste
- 6 cups finely shredded green cabbage
For the Catfish:
Heat about 2 to 3 inches (or even 6 inches in a party pot) of oil in a heavy pot or deep skillet to 365 degrees.
Cut the catfish fillets into 1 ½ to 2-inch wide diagonal strips.
Place the cornmeal in a shallow bowl. Roll the catfish fingers in the cornmeal and allow to rest a few minutes to “dry” so the cornmeal adheres well.
Fry a few pieces of fish (don’t crowd the pan) at a time in the hot oil until golden brown on all sides. Cooking time should be 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Test for doneness by piercing with a fork or the tip of a knife into the thickest part of the fish. The fish is cooked through if the center is opaque and the flesh flakes easily.
Season with salt and pepper when the fish is hot out of the fryer.
Easy additions: Spoonful of dijon mustard, a spoonful of dill pickle relish or chopped cornichons, two tablespoons finely minced shallot.
For the Slaw:
Whisk together the mayonnaise and lemon juice in a large bowl until well blended. Stir in the pickle relish, sprinkle with salt. Add the cabbage and toss with the dressing. Taste for seasoning and add more salt as necessary. If you like your slaw extra creamy, simply add more mayo and pickle relish, to taste. Other easy additions that you can add, but don't have to: a spoonful of dijon mustard, a spoonful of dill pickle relish or chopped cornichons, a minced shallot, a dash of hot pepper sauce.