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Fish are jumping.

No longer a Southern secret, catfish are a whisker away from international fame. Why are the fish jumpin' in popularity and their farms flourishing across the country? Credit goes to a newly discovered versatility and to endorsements by such notable gourmands as Craig Claiborne and Willard Scott. Claiborne, the food editor of the New York Times, actually creates French menus around the farm-fresh fillets, and "Today Show" weatherman Scott calls catfish the unsung hero of American seafood.

"Fish is the original fast food,' adds Dr. Joyce Nettleton, a nutrition and dietetics lecturer at Tufts University. "It takes minutes to prepare, but it offers the nutritional benefits that most fast foods lack. Farm-raised catfish, in particular, is low in calories, cholesterol, and fat, and high in protein and important nutrients."

The new catfish cuisine pairs the mild-flavored fish with everything from pasta to pecans in recipes ranging from appetizers to light summer salads and catfish shish kebabs. The celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck serves Sizzling Catfish as a signature dish at his trendy Chinois on Mainstreet restaurant in Los Angeles.

You don't have to own a popular watering hole to be a catfish connoisseur. You can make up your own recipes at home. Catfish can be blackened, steamed, grilled, stir-fried, broiled, or barbecued. It can be added to soups and stews or substituted in any dish calling for chicken breast. Overcooking is no problem, because the fat in catfish (mostly the healthful monounsaturated kind) prevents fillets from drying out should they be left in the oven too long.

If you get hooked on catfish this summer, you won't have to put your palate on hold come September. Catfish are harvested year-round-Mississippi alone can process more than 6 million pounds a week-and are readily available. Even if you live far from the South's famous catfish ponds, you're assured freshness because of the hurry-up harvesting procedure. When the fish weigh about a pound each, they are gathered with nets and shipped live to the processing plants. Within 30 minutes they are quick-frozen and ready for shipment.

Now that catfish are so convenient, Southerners can't keep their long-held secret: catfish flavor, far from being strong, is actually adaptable to almost any ingredient. (The following recipes bear this out.) The rest of the country is finally catching on.

Pasta with Catfish and Artichokes

(Makes 8 servings) 1 cup sliced artichoke hearts 1 red pepper, cut in julienne strips 1 carrot, cut in julienne strips 1 zucchini, cut in julienne strips 1 1/2 tablespoons margarine 1/2 tablespoon oil 2 Mississippi farm-raised catfish

fillets 2/3 cup low-fat milk 1/4 pound angel-hair pasta or

vermicelli 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg Saute artichokes, red pepper, carrot strips, and zucchini in melted margarine and oil. Cut catfish in half crosswise and slice into thin strips; add to vegetables. Cook until tender. Stir in low-fat milk; keep warm.

Cook pasta according to directions and drain. Toss well with milk mixture and cheese. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Serve immediately.

Catfish Salad

(Makes 4 servings) 2 Mississippi farm-raised catfish

fillets, cut in cubes 1 yellow or red pepper, roasted and

cut into strips 1 small red onion, sliced 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill or

1/2 teaspoon dried 1/4 cup olive oil 1/4 cup balsamic or red wine vinegar 2 cups torn arugula or romaine leaves 3 ounces blue cheese, crumbled Salt and pepper, if desired Place catfish cubes in skillet; add water to cover. Simmer 5-7 minutes or until catfish flakes easily. Drain.

In large bowl, combine catfish cubes, yellow pepper strips, red onion rings, dill, oil, and vinegar. Cover and marinate I hour. Just before serving, toss with lettuce leaves or arugula, and blue cheese. Salt and pepper to taste.

Stir-Fried Catfish

(Makes 4 servings) 4 farm-raised catfish fillets 3 tablespoons lemon juice 3 tablespoons soy sauce 3 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 cup thinly sliced red pepper 1 cup sliced celery 1 cup snow peas 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms 2 tablespoons cornstarch 3/4 cup water 1 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon pepper Hot cooked rice Cut fillets into 2" x 3/4" strips. Combine lemon juice and soy sauce. Add fish; let stand 20 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons oil to wok or large skillet. Heat over medium-high heat 2 minutes. Add red pepper; stir-fry 2 minutes. Add celery, snow peas, and mushrooms; stir-fry 2 minutes. Remove vegetables; set aside. Add remaining tablespoon oil to wok; heat over medium-high heat 2 minutes. Drain fish; reserve marinade. Add fish to wok; stir-fry 2 minutes or until fish flakes easily. Return vegetables to wok. Combine cornstarch, water, salt, pepper, and reserved marinade; stir until smooth. Add to wok and cook 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Serve over hot cooked rice.

Broiled Catfish Fillets

(Makes 4 servings) 4 Mississippi farm-raised catfish fillets 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt 1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper Lemon wedges Sprinkle fillets with garlic salt and lemon pepper. Preheat broiler pan 5 minutes. Coat with shortening spray. Place catfish fillets on broiler pan. Broil 3" from heat 4-6 minutes until catfish flakes easily. Garnish with lemon wedges.

Grilled Catfish

(Makes 4 servings) 4 farm-raised catfish steaks (or fillets) 1/4 teaspoon white pepper 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt Sprinkle steaks with pepper and garlic salt. Place steaks on greased grill over hot coals. (Use fish-grilling basket to grill fillets.) Grill 10 minutes per inch of thickness, turning once, until fish flakes easily.

Crunchy Broiled Catfish Kabobs

(Makes 6 servings) 6 Mississippi Prime farm-raised

catfish fillets 3 corn on the cob, cooked 2 red peppers, cut into 2" pieces 1/2 cup vegetable oil 1/2 cup teriyaki sauce (or soy sauce) 1/2 cup finely chopped onion 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice 1 tablespoon sugar 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 teaspoon ground coriander 1/4 teaspoon liquid hot pepper sauce 1 cup herb-seasoned bread crumbs 2 limes, cut into wedges Cooked rice Parsley sprigs Cut fish into 2" pieces. Cut each ear of corn into 4 pieces. In large shallow dish, combine fish, corn, red pepper, oil, teriyaki sauce, onion, lemon juice, sugar, garlic, coriander, and hot pepper sauce; mix well. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour; stir occasionally.

Preheat broiler 5 minutes. Drain fish and vegetables; reserve marinade. Roll fish pieces in bread crumbs. Thread fish, vegetables, and lime wedges, alternating, on 6 skewers about 16" long. Place on greased broiler pan. Broil about 8"-10" from heat 8-10 minutes, turning and basting with marinade, until fish flakes easily. Serve kabobs over cooked rice. Garnish with parsley sprigs.

Catfish and Shrimp Soup

(Makes 8 servings) 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 cups chopped onion 2 cloves garlic, minced 28 ounces canned or fresh tomatoes 3 tablespoons tomato paste 1 bay leaf 4 cups water 1 cup dry white wine 8 ounces bottled or fresh clam juice 1/2 pound shelled medium shrimp 2 Mississippi farm-raised catfish

fillets, cut into 1" cubes 1/2 teaspoon salt, if desired 1/4 teaspoon pepper Coriander or parsley Lemon slices In large soup pot, heat oil. Saute onion and garlic until onions are transparent. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and bay leaf. Cover and simmer 25 minutes. Add water, white wine, and clam juice. Simmer, uncovered, 45 minutes. Add shrimp, catfish, salt, and pepper. Cook 10 minutes or until catfish flakes easily. Remove bay leaf. Garnish each serving with chopped coriander or parsley and lemon slices.

Catfish en Papillote

(Makes 4 servings)

Catfish can even be prepared in a microwave oven, but don't worry if you're not Julia Child in the kitchen. You can serve farm-raised catfish with a twist-of paper, that is-when you prepare Catfish en Papillote. This quick and easy presentation is low in fat and high in flavor. 1 tablespoon soy sauce 3 tablespoons dry sherry 2 tablespoons chopped scallions 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger 4 Mississippi Prime farm-raised

catfish fillets, cut into 2" cubes 1 red pepper, julienned 8 lemon slices In medium bowl, combine soy sauce, sherry, scallions, ginger, and catfish cubes. Cut 4 12" x 12" square pieces of parchment paper. Fold paper to form triangle; open. Place catfish in paper. Top with pepper strips and 2 slices of lemon per packet. Spoon sauce over mixture. Close paper to reform triangle. Crimp edges to seal tightly. Place 2 packets on microwave-safe plate. Microwave at High 6 minutes. Let stand about 1 minute. Repeat with remaining 2 packets. Arrange packets on serving plates. Open carefully at table.

Conventional directions: preheat oven to 450 degree F. Place crimped packets on baking sheet; bake 10-12 minutes. Open carefully at table.

Mexican Catfish Salad

(Makes 4 servings) 2 tablespoons lime juice 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped, or 1/2

teaspoon ground coriander 1/2 small jalapeno pepper, finely

chopped, or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne 1 clove garlic, minced 1 teaspoon salt, if desired 1/3 cup olive oil 2 Mississippi Prime farm-raised

catfish fillets, cut into strips 6 cups salad greens, washed and torn

into bite-sized pieces 2 ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges 1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced 1/2 cup fresh or canned corn Make marinade dressing by combining lime juice, cilantro, pepper, garlic, salt, and olive oil in jar with tight-fitting lid. Shake to blend ingredients, and pour half over catfish strips in shallow dish. Cover with plastic wrap and marinade in refrigerator 30 minutes. Transfer to broiler pan and broil 4 minutes on each side. Line 4 salad plates with salad greens; arrange catfish, tomato wedges, and avocado slices on lettuce, and top with corn. Drizzle remaining dressing over each plate and serve.

Moroccan Catfish Couscous

(Makes 4-6 servings)

"Couscous" takes its name from a semolina cereal indigenous to Morocco and other North African countries. Traditionally, this stew is prepared with chicken or lamb. 1/4 cup slivered almonds 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 medium onion, chopped 2 cloves garlic, minced 2 medium carrots, cut on the &agonal 1 small red bell pepper, cut into strips 1 teaspoon ground coriander 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1 3/4 cups chicken stock 2 cups water 4 Mississippi Prime farm-raised

catfish fillets, cut into 2" strips 1 cup canned chickpeas, drained 1 medium zucchini, cut in half

lengthwise, then into 1" strips 1 cup couscous or rice Place almonds on baking sheet and toast in 350 degree F. oven 8-10 minutes until golden brown; set aside. Heat oil in large heavy skillet, add onions, and cook over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, carrots, peppers, seasonings, chicken broth, and water. Bring to boil and cook 5 minutes. Reduce heat; add catfish, chickpeas, and zucchini; and simmer 12-15 minutes until catfish flakes easily with fork.

Prepare couscous or rice according to package directions. Mound prepared couscous or rice on large serving platter; make a well in center. Fill well with catfish and vegetables, reserving some of cooking broth, and sprinkle with toasted almonds. Serve remaining cooking broth separately to be spooned over individual servings.
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Title Annotation:catfish recipes
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:May 1, 1990
Previous Article:Myrtle Beach; and its strand of pearls.
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