Friday, January 23, 2015

Get Inspired and Start Cooking!

I went to see the powerful and riveting movie SELMA last Friday evening.  Though emotionally draining, one of the lighter scenes in the film was of the main characters enjoying  fried chicken, collard greens, grits and other soul-food goodies.  This past Monday, on Martin Luther King Day when I was stumped with what to make for friends coming over for dinner, a bit of inspiration hit me. Given the holiday and the tasty memory of the film scene, I decided why not try a Southern inspired meal:  Pan fried Catfish, Braised Black-eye Peas and Simmered Greens with Sausage.  This is some of my favorite type of cooking: soulful, comforting with no exact recipe to slavishly follow.   When these humble ingredients come together they certainly create a sum that exceeds their individual parts.
Crispy Catfish, Simmered Greens with Sausage and Braised Black-eye Peas

I start with dried black-eye peas that cook up pretty quickly.  I soak them and then cook them (with not salt) until they are just tender which takes about an hour.  Then I add a sofrito that includes onions, pepper, celery, garlic and tomato along with fresh oregano, smoked paprika, cayenne to the just cooked beans and let them simmer.  
Soaked black-eye peas

Just cooked black-eye peas.

Sofrito: onions, red & green bell peppers, garlic and crushed tomato sauteed in olive oil

Braised Beans
As much as I love fried chicken, fried catfish is also very delicious and it cooks up a lot more quickly.  Like my fried chicken, I like to marinate the catfish  for several hours or overnight in a spicy buttermilk marinade with lots of fresh garlic, shallot and hot sauce. Then I dredge it really well with a seasoned cornmeal & flour mixture.
Marinating Catfish
Breaded Catfish
For the greens, I use a mixture of greens that includes collard, mustard, turnip and kale.  I cook these with Italian sausage that I take out of its casing along with onion, garlic, red chili flakes, apple cider vinegar and a little water. I simmer them until they're tender about 20-30 minutes.  I give it a fresh squeeze of lemon juice just before serving to up brighten the flavor.
Greens with sausage and onion
Now the fun part of frying up the catfish and assembling the dish.  I use canola oil in a cast iron skillet at a shallow depth of an inch or so.  I make sure the oil is hot but not too hot or the fish won't cook through before the outside browns.
Make sure the oil is hot enough.  Check by adding some of the breading and wait until it sizzles.

Carefully lay in the fish into the hot oil.  Fry the fish in small batches as to not cool down the oil too much.

Flip when golden brown, about 4-5 minutes per side.

Now to put it all together:  The beans go down first.  They are the starch and the sauce of the dish.  The greens go next.  Their bright acidity because of vinegar and lemon area a nice balance to the richness of the fish.  The crispy fish goes right on top is.  It's nice and moist because of the buttermilk marinade and has a nice crunch because of the addition of the cornmeal to the breading.  Garnish with chives or parsley and serve with Louisiana hot sauce or Tabasco on the side.
Pan-fried Catfish with Braised Black-eye Peas and Simmer Greens with Sausage

So get inspired this weekend.  Maybe it'll be a movie or  TV show that will get your creative juices flowing. Perhaps you'll be watching tennis or listening to your son's violin practicing (then again maybe not) that will be your "aha" food moment. Whatever it is write up a menu and start shopping for the ingredients. It doesn't have to be fancy just an enjoyable process of creating something delicious.  Let me know what  you come up with.  Until then, happy cooking!

1 comment:

  1. I shouldn't read your blog at 1:30 in the morning. Now I'm hungry for comfort food. I'll be looking for inspiration.