Angling for recipes: Freshwater fish makes a great meal
BY NICOLE MARSHALL MIDDLETON World Scene Writer
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
2/20/13 at 8:18 AM
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Oklahoma may be landlocked, but there are plenty of freshwater fish in the state's lakes and streams that make a good meal.
And most of the fish can be prepared a variety of ways: blackened, broiled, fried or sauteed.
Crappie and catfish top the list for most sought-after "food fish" in the state, according to Gene Gilliland, the assistant chief of fisheries with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
And bass, which is getting all of the buzz this week due to the upcoming Bassmaster Classic competition, is traditionally caught, weighed and released rather than eaten by anglers.
Chef Devin Levine, executive chef for Savor Catering by SMG in Tulsa, has some great recipes that are perfect for many types of fish, including the freshwater fish that might be caught in Oklahoma waterways.
Levine, who spent 34 years at Southern Hills Country Club before joining SMG, is responsible for the food service at both venues hosting Bassmaster Classic events in Tulsa: the BOK Center and Tulsa Convention Center.
"We are doing all of the catering for the different groups related to the Bassmaster at both buildings, including at the media center and a few VIP parties," Levine said. "They have asked for things like wings ... football-type foods, something with a local flair, but no fish."
As finishing touches were being made for Bassmaster events, Levine took time to demonstrate a recipe that he created for a blackened catfish and said that it can be used with many types of fish.
Fish is a protein that doesn't take long to cook, he explained, and one of the most common mistakes is overcooking.
Levine started by taking deboned catfish fillets and seasoning them with salt and pepper.
"Blackening spice does not have a lot of salt, so it is good idea to salt the fillets to get things started," Levine said.
Then he dredged both sides of the fillets in the blackening spice.
"It almost seems like it would be too much, but it takes a lot," Levine said.
Start cooking the fish flesh side down in the hot skillet. Levine explained that this will give the "presentation side" a nice sear and prevent the fillet from curling up when you cook the skin side.
He cooked each side of the fish for about two minutes. If you are cooking a thicker piece of fish, you can finish it by putting it in the oven, Levine said.
Other methods for cooking fish include broiling, poaching and the very popular fish fry.
Misty McFarlin - who is a nationally known catfish noodler, along with her father, Lee McFarlin - gave us some tips for preparing fish. The McFarlins, also known as Team Mudcats, have prepared the catfish they have caught every year since the Okie Noodling Tournament and Fish Fry in Pauls Valley started 14 years ago.
She said they always prepare the fried catfish at the event the same way.
They do not soak their fish because they take extra care to prepare it first. She said her father cuts the mudline from the catfish, which gives the fish a muddy flavor. He also cuts every bit of fat from the fish, she said.
"When he is done, it is as white as a sheet of paper," McFarlin said.
Then, they take the fillets and dip them in a milk and egg batter, then flour and then their own special seasoning before deep-frying them.
For something different, the McFarlins like to season fish with lemon pepper and saute it in butter.
"At the tournament, we only cook fried catfish, but you can cook any type of fish either way," she said.
To experience an authentic Oklahoma fish-fry and catfish noodling event, mark your calendars for the 14th Annual Okie Noodling Tournament and Fish Fry on June 22 in Pauls Valley.
Misty and Lee McFarlin of Team Mudcats will be preparing all the fish that they have caught throughout the season. They sell the side dishes - beans and potato salad - at the event and give the fish away for free.
This recipe was provided by chef Devin Levine. Use locally-sourced or store-bought fish and don't be afraid to change the ingredients in the salsa for your taste.
BLACKENED CATFISH WITH GRAPE TOMATO, MANGO, BLACK BEAN, ORANGE, CAPER & RED ONION SALSA
4 catfish fillets, 8 ounces each, skinless, boneless
Cajun seasoning mix of your choice
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup mango, diced
1/2 cup oranges, peeled and diced
1/4 cup red onion, sliced thin
1/4 cup capers, plus juice
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons scallions, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Brush catfish with olive oil and coat generously with Cajun seasonings.
2. Coat catfish fillets with Cajun seasoning; heat nonstick skillet to high heat and add small amount of olive oil; quickly sear catfish on each side to blacken and cook until fish is firm to touch.
3. Combine all salsa ingredients and allow it to marinate for one hour before serving.
4. Plate catfish in center of plate and spoon a generous amount of salsa over each fillet. Great served with soft polenta, white rice or simple baby field green salad vinaigrette.
6 (4-to-6-ounce) catfish fillets
2 cups milk
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon seasoned salt
2 teaspoons pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1. Place catfish fillets in a single layer in a shallow dish; cover with milk. Cover and chill 1 hour.
2. Combine cornmeal and next 4 ingredients in a shallow dish.
3. Remove catfish fillets from refrigerator, and let stand at room temperature 10 minutes. Remove from milk, allowing excess to drip off. Sprinkle evenly with 1 teaspoon salt.
4. Dredge catfish fillets in cornmeal mixture, shaking off excess.
5. Pour oil to depth of 1 1/2 inches into a large skillet; heat to 350 degrees. Fry fillets, in batches, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Drain on wire racks over paper towels.
- adapted from Southern Living, July 2004
BEER BATTER FRIED CRAPPIE
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup cooking oil, such as Crisco
1 cup beer
1. Place all the above ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir until smooth. The mixture will be a little thin - you want it to be thin, but not so thin it doesn't stick to the fillets. Add more flour or beer to get it just right.
2. The secret is to really dry the fillets before battering them. Spread them on paper towels and pat dry. Then use new paper towels and move the fillets to the new towels, drying each one. When the fillets are dry, salt them lightly and place in the batter.
3. Use a quarter of an inch of Crisco or cooking oil and cook the fish fillets until golden brown.
- adapted from Taste of Home
HONEY FRIED WALLEYE
Yield: 4-6 servings
1 teaspoon honey
1 cup coarsely crushed saltines (about 22 crackers)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 to 6 walleye fillets (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1. In a shallow bowl, beat egg and honey. In another bowl, combine the cracker crumbs, flour, salt and pepper. Dip fillets into egg mixture, then coat with crumb mixture.
2. In a large skillet, heat 1/4 inch of oil; fry fish over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Drizzle with honey.
- adapted from Taste of Home
Original Print Headline: Angling Cooks
Nicole Marshall Middleton 918-581-8459
Blackened catfish prepared by chef Devin Levine CHRISTOPHER SMITH / Tulsa World
Chef Devin Levine, who oversees the cooking at the BOK and the Convention Center, prepares blackened catfish. CHRISTOPHER SMITH / Tulsa World