CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- One component of Charleston's FestivALL celebration, which begins Friday when the city becomes a work of art, features catfish as the unofficial "mascot."
It represents the pleasure fishing enjoyed by the community in the Kanawha River, and the theme has been carried out during FestivALL for several years with prominently displayed, imaginative and colorfully decorated papier-mâché catfish.
Let's take the fish from the street into the kitchen today. Catfish is a little like cilantro -- you like it or you don't, period. No middle ground.
Today's farm-raised catfish has a greater appeal than yesterday's offerings and lately it has made an appearance in the repertoire of "gourmet" chefs. The whiskery swimmer kinda went highbrow.
It has just as many health benefits as other fish, but there isn't any reason you can't make substitutions in the recipe. I often switch to orange roughy, which is very mild tasting yet sturdy.
The fish is baked, which is better for us and cuts to zero the sizzle and splatter of popping oil, unless you do something weird in the oven.
You may use regular mayonnaise in the tartar sauce if you don't plan to eat it as you would a bowl of cereal. There are some dishes that I occasionally choose to use the "real" mayonnaise, especially when it isn't something you eat every day, three times a day. Remember moderation in that instance.
You can make a nice Po' Boy sandwich by placing the cooked catfish on toasted wheat bun or sub roll with lettuce, spring mix, arugula or baby spinach leaves, sliced tomato and the tartar sauce. A big splash of hot sauce is optional.
Makes 4 servings.
1 pound catfish, cut into 4 portions
1/4 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon Old Bay, Cajun/Creole, cayenne pepper or Mrs. Dash seasoning (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 egg whites