When you come from a town that celebrates catfish with its own annual festival, you develop a particular love for it that can be a little hard to explain to someone who just thinks of catfish as a bottom-feeder (and maybe has only eaten the imported stuff). The best fillets IMHO are small and fried, served with tartar sauce and maybe some fried oysters as well. You’re already eating a fully fried meal, after all — throw caution to the wind!
Whenever I visit my parents, they send me back with bags of frozen catfish fillets and shrimp — all local and all delicious. The only problem is that I hate frying; it’s funks up the house and then you have to worry about what to do with the oil, so the catfish tend to sit in my freezer for a while before I do anything with them. But earlier this week, just in time for Cinco de Mayo, I was craving fish tacos and thought I’d give catfish a whirl.
To avoid the issue of frying and having a fishy smell permeating our house, I took indoor cooking out of the equation altogether and fired up R2Eat2, our new gas grill. (Thanks to my sister-in-law’s mother for the fantastic name suggestion!) I marinated a pound of fish fillets in the juice of one lime, with a hefty four-fingered pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper. After 15 minutes, I spread them out on a sheet of heavy-duty foil and sprinkled the tops with paprika for a little color and grilled them on the foil with the grill lid down till the fish flaked easily, around 10-12 minutes.
I like to keep accompaniments simple for fish tacos, so I sliced some Napa cabbage thinly and tossed it with baby arugula and more lime juice and salt. But the real star here was the remoulade I made instead of salsa.
Remoulade recipes vary a lot based on location; the original French versions are typically mayonnaise-based with lots of herbs while Cajun and Creole remoulades are shot through with heaps of minced vegetables and are more piquant, as you’d expect. They’re usually either mayonnaise- or oil-based, but wanting neither one, I thought that avocado might be a delicious and healthier alternative.
I based the remoulade on Emeril’s recipe, substituting an equal amount of avocado for the oil, and doubling the cayenne pepper because I like it spicy. I thought of adding some capers at the end, but decided against it because the remoulade was perfect just as it was. You can knock Emeril all you want, but I’ve never been disappointed with any of his recipes. I made the full amount of remoulade and we were left with a lot, but it goes well with all sorts of dishes, not just seafood. I grilled hamburgers the next day and topped them with a good slather of remoulade and it was a marriage made in heaven.
So even if you’re not in a fish taco mood, give this remoulade a try — you’ll love it. I gar-on-tee.
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