We hosted our neighbors for a July 4th fish fry.  One of the smartest aspects of our outdoor kitchen is the gas burner we installed.  It’s perfect for cooking a big pot of beans, a shrimp boil or a fish fry.  And, the best part is that the odors of fish stay outdoors and don’t heat or smell up the house.

Mother taught me years ago how to fry catfish.  She’d mix up yellow cornmeal with garlic powder, salt and pepper.  I also like to use Louisiana New Orleans Style breading mix.  It’s usually right by the butcher case and I pick up a bag every time I purchase fish.  It has all the same ingredients and it’s pre-measured.

I buy large catfish pieces and cut them into thirds when I get home.  It’s easier to fry small pieces and the fish cooks more evenly.  I rinse the fish and place it in a bowl with water and ice so it gets good and cold. This makes the batter adhere and helps coax the coating to get real crispy.  Set up a “dredging” station with your fish, a long dish of the breading mix and a plate to put your cooked fish on.  And, of course a cocktail.

I prefer to fry in a cast iron skillet.  Pour in canola oil and turn your burner on medium.  Wait until you can drop in a sprinkle of water and if it sizzles, your oil is ready.

Using a fork or your fingers, take a fish piece from the bowl of iced water and dredge into the cornmeal.  Keep turning the fish over and over until it’s good and coated.   Get three pieces ready then transfer them with tongs into your skillet.  Cook 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown.  Since I was cooking for a crowd, I turned the inside oven to 200 degrees and placed cooling racks onto cookie sheets.  After each batch of fish was ready, I placed them onto the cookie sheet and kept them warm in the oven until we were ready to eat.

After the fish was done I moved onto fried shrimp.  I like to start over with fresh oil because by the time you finish cooking all the catfish, the bottom of the pan has alot of cornmeal.  I always turn the fire off and with oven mits pour the hot grease into a large empty can. It will pop and sizzle so practice extreme caution.  Just make sure no one is around and you are careful and slow with this step.  Put your skillet back onto the burner, pour fresh oil in and turn the burner back on.

This recipe for fried shrimp is from Helen Corbitt via my friend Allison Fogle.  Allison’s mother used the same recipe and she shared it with me.  I will never fry shrimp any other way.  Period.

Mom’s Fried Shrimp

2 eggs

1 cup whole milk

1 pound large shrimp (uncooked)

1 cup flour

1 1/2 tsp. garlic salt

36 saltines, smashed with the fingers

Beat the eggs and the milk.  Clean the shrimp and split down the back to butterfly.  Dip in the seasoned flour, then the egg and the milk, then in the smashed saltines.  Fry in deep fat (I use Canola) until golden brown.  It just takes a few minutes.  Serves 4.  I doubled the recipe for 10 people.

The saltine crackers create a crunching coating that is so delicious.  This could easily be a weeknight dinner it’s so easy to prepare.

I found cute “fish fry” newsprint waxed paper liners and red and white checked cardboard trays on Amazon to serve the fish on.

Everyone brought a side salad and we added hush puppies we cooked in the outdoor pizza oven.  Everything was set up buffet style and we sat on the patio at tables set with cloth linens, candles and seashells.  The warm, evening breeze was perfect as we sat around the table eating and laughing. It felt like we were on vacation at the shore.

We have the best group of neighbors and really enjoy spending time together.  It was the perfect way to celebrate not only love of our country, but love for each other.  It was a fun spin on the traditional outdoor cookout.

Have a blessed July 4th with family and friends!