Thursday, June 21, 2012

Blackened Catfish over Macque Choux with Creole Mustard Sauce

Given my feverish love for the greatest of American cities, New Orleans, Cajun cuisine has a special niche in my soul. I get satisfaction out of cooking it not just because the food tastes oh-so-good, but because I feel tangibly connected to the sensory memories I hold so dear from my trips to the Crescent City. This recipe is inspired by some fantastic dishes I had in New Orleans, and may seem a little unwieldy in its length, but the components are all relatively simple and come together harmoniously on the plate.

Blackened Catfish over Macque Choux with Creole Mustard Sauce
Makes 2 servings, with sundry leftovers

Blackened Catfish

*2 catfish fillets (If they are excessively large fillets, you can buy one and then cut in half. Look for ones that are not thicker than about 1/2-3/4 inch thick)
*Creole blackening spice mix, recipe to follow
*A couple tablespoons of a high smoke-point neutral oil, such as grapeseed or vegetable.

Place a cast-iron skillet over high heat. Rinse and dry fillets; rub with a little Tabasco and then liberally sprinkle both sides with the blackening spices and gently pat into the fishflesh. Once the skillet is ripping-hot and beginning to smoke, swirl some glugs of oil around, shake excess seasonings off the fish, and then lay the fillets in. There will be smoke, so prop open a window and flick on the exhaust fan. Fry undisturbed for about 2 minutes until the fish is nicely blackened on one side, and then flip over to cook for about another two minutes longer on the other side. The frying time will ultimately depend on how thick your fillets are/how hot your skillet is, though.

Creole blackening spice mix

This is a hybrid of the recipes for Emeril's Essence and Paul Prudhomme's blackening spice mix, both easily searchable online, plus some personal additions. Try making your own by tinkering with proportions - just cool it on the thyme because too much dried thyme can make the mix taste muddy.

*2 tablespoons paprika
*2 1/2 teaspoons salt
*1 tablespoon onion powder
*1 tablespoon garlic powder
*2 teaspoon cayenne
*1/2 teaspoon mulatto chili powder (toast dried mulatto chilis+some of their seeds and then grind in spice grinder)
*1 tablespoon black pepper
*1 teaspoon dried thyme
*1 tablespoon dried oregano

Mix together and store in a jar.

Macque Choux

Heavily adapted from here.

*A couple strips of good slab bacon
*4 ears sweet corn
*1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
*1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
*1 small jalapeno, finely chopped (optional)
*2 cloves of garlic, minced
*Scant 1/4 cup chicken stock
*Scant 1/4 cup evaporated milk or cream
*A couple shakes of cayenne
*A pinch of sugar
*A couple dashes of Tabasco

Shuck and rinse the corn, and then cut the kernels off the cobs. Make sure you catch the sweet, sweet corn can run your knife diagonally against the cobs to collect more, or wring them Indian-burn-style. You can make this with frozen corn, but fresh is, obviously, worlds better.

Fry bacon until crisp, and then remove and set aside. Add the chopped onion, garlic and pepper(s) and saute in the bacon fat for 5 minutes before stirring in the reserved corn & milky pulp. Cook another 5 minutes or so, and then add in the liquids and seasonings and simmer just south of medium, stirring occasionally, for 30-odd until most of the liquid has evaporated. Crumble the reserved bacon and incorporate it into the choux.

Creole Mustard Sauce

This is something I usually just make by pinches, squirts and splashes, but I've tried to give more-or-less approximate measurements. Play around until it suits your taste.

*3 tablespoons Creole mustard (I, along with everyone in Louisiana, use Zatarain's)
*1 tablespoon lemon juice
*A pinch of sugar
*2 tablespoons evaporated milk or cream
*Pinch of cayenne
*A couple dashes of Tabasco
*2 tablespoons EVOO

Whisk everything but the oil together, and then gradually stream it in while continuing to whisk. S&P to taste. Funnel into a squeeze bottle for easier application.

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