Bluestem's Catfish Sticks with Corn Nuts

[Photograph: Bonjwing Lee]

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Bluestem: The Cookbook to give away this week.

Fish sticks and corn nuts seem more like convenience store fare than fine dining. Not so in the case of these Catfish Sticks with Corn Nuts from Bluestem. In this inspired preparation, catfish fillets are coated in crunchy, salty corn nuts, giving them a crispy crust that's deeply corny in the best possible way.

Served with an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink tartar sauce and slices of fresh radishes, these are hardly on the same level as the packaged versions.

Why you should make this: Fish sticks don't have to come out of a box, in fact when made at home they are not only grown-up but really delicious.

Next time we might think about: Firm fleshed catfish works well in this recipe but we're tempted to try it out with something a bit milder and flakier like cod.

Adapted from Bluestem by Colby Garrelts and Megan Garrelts. Copyright © 2011. Published by Andrews McMeel. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.

Bluestem's Catfish Sticks with Corn Nuts

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About This Recipe

Yield:Serves 4
Active time:1 hour
Total time:1 hour

Ingredients

  • Fish Sticks
  • 3 cups corn nuts 
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 2 cups whole milk 
  • 1½ pounds freshwater catfish fillets 
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper 
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 
  • Tartar Sauce (recipe follows) 
  • 4 ounces radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced 
  • Tartar Sauce
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, finely chopped
  • 10 cornichons, drained and minced
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsely
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper

Procedures

  1. 1

    For the Tartar Sauce: Whisk the crème fraîche and mayonnaise together until smooth. Stir in the eggs, cornichons, capers, vinegar, lemon juice, and mustard. Add the parsley and tarragon and season with salt and pepper to taste.

    Note: This sauce tastes better when made 1 day head to allow the flavors to blend. If you make it ahead, leave the parsley and tarragon out of the sauce until just before serving.

  2. 2

    For the Fish Sticks: Toast the corn nuts in a dry sauté pan over medium-high heat, 3 to 5 minutes. Shake the pan to prevent them from burning. 

  3. 3

    Remove the corn nuts from the pan and let them cool completely. Pulverize the corn nuts in a food processor until they are coarsely ground. Set aside 2 tablespoons of the ground corn nuts to use as garnish. 

  4. 4

    Put the flour in a shallow dish. Pour the milk into another shallow dish. Put the ground corn nuts in a third shallow dish. 

  5. 5

    Line a large plate or baking sheet with paper towels. 

  6. 6

    Pat the fish dry. Slice the fillets lengthwise into 1-inch-wide strips. Season them with salt and pepper. 

  7. 7

    Toss the fish strips in the flour to coat. Knock off the excess flour. Dip the fish strips in the milk, and then roll them in the ground corn nuts to coat. Transfer the crusted fish strips to the lined plate or baking sheet. 

  8. 8

    Heat the vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Carefully add the fish strips to the pan and fry, undisturbed, until the corn nut crust turns dark golden on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Flip the strips over and fry on the second side until the crust darkens and the fish is cooked through, about 1 minute more. 

  9. 9

    To serve, smear a spoonful of tartar sauce across the center of each of 4 plates. Divide the fish strips among the plates and garnish with the radish slices and reserved ground corn nuts. Serve immediately. 

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