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The Perfect Southern-Style Striped Bass Dinner
First of all, I'd like to thank all the fine folks out there that practice catch-and-release fishing. Without you kind fishermen and fisherwomen, I'd sure be eating a lot less Striped Bass every year. Sure, I catch an release plenty of fish, but that tends to be because they either weren't legal to keep them or I've caught my limit for the day.

Seriously, I think catch-and-release is great, I just happen to be of the catch-and-eat persuasion. I only keep what I am going to eat and if I already have enough in my freezer, you won't find me keeping more, either. Striped Bass is a precious, albeit tasty, resource and it has to be respected. Now, with that said.......

Being a Southern-raised, red-blooded American male, I like my fish deep fried. Sure, my Gulf-Coast-roots say blackened Striped Bass is great too, but we'll cover that recipe another day. Right now, I want to cover what I consider to the best way to cook Striped Bass and the fixin's to put on the table with this fine meal.

There are three things that, at a bare minimum, you simply must have on your table to serve the perfect Striped Bass dinner. First, of course, is the fish. Second, without a doubt, is a hot steaming bowl of cheese grits. No, you may never under any circumstance whatsoever I don't care what your excuse is serve instant grits with melted sliced Kraft singles in it. Got it? Ok, thanks. Third, you need a bowl of green beans that have been slow cooked with a healthy supply of onions and either a ham-hock, some bacon or a smoked turkey neck until the beans were good and soft.

Now, no Southern-fried Striped Bass dinner would be complete without one of several  kinds of bread for the table. Your choices are:

Cornbread (No, not sweet cornbread. That's called cake)
Fried Corncakes
Biscuits (Yes, you can make them from BisQuick, but don't brag about it!)

Today we'll cover the cooking method for the Striped Bass. We'll cover recipes for the rest of this fine meal in the coming months, so keep visiting this site.

Cooking the Striped Bass

About 2 pounds of Striped Bass fillets cut into finger-sized portions
1-cup of self-rising cornmeal (white or yellow, doesn't matter)
1/4 cup of self-rising flour (corn-flour would be better, but it is hard to find)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2-teaspoon of paprika
1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper
Vegetable Oil for frying (shortening can be substituted)

You will need a deep skillet to fry the fish in or, even better, a counter top deep fryer. Fill the skillet deep enough to cover the fish when you put it in the pan but not so full you spill oil onto the burners and cause your house to catch on fire!

First, mix the cornmeal, flour and other ingredients in a big bowl. Then, pre-heat your oil to 375 degrees. Next, take a finger of fish and roll it in the cornmeal mixture. Press the fish firmly into the cornmeal and make good and sure that the fish is completely covered in the mixture, especially down into any cracks in the flesh. You don't want to crush the fish, but you want to make sure that any of the fleshy area that will hit the oil is absolutely covered in cornmeal. Don't worry about the skin area of the fish finger getting covered because the cornmeal won't stick well to it anyway.

Place each finger of fish onto a plate after you have completely rolled it in the cornmeal mixture. Wait to add your fish to the hot oil until you have several pieces ready to go in at once, so that you can bring each piece of the fish out of the pan around the same time. Keep an eye on your oil temperature. Too hot and the outside will cook too fast, too cold and the fish will get soggy with oil and the cornmeal won't fuse well to the flesh of the bass. You can always check the temperature of the oil by dropping a tiny drop of water into the oil. If you hear a crackling sound and see popping after the drop of water hits, the oil is ready. Don't put very much water in the oil, it literally takes just a drop. Honestly, the best way is to have a thermometer for the job. That way you can keep a constant check on the temperature.

Cook the fish for 4 or 5 minutes, turning occasionally if you are cooking in a skillet as opposed to a deep fryer, or until the cornmeal turns golden brown. When fish is cooked properly, is should appear flaky when you check it with a fork or when you break it open.

When you removed the fish from the skillet, drain the excess oil by placing it on paper towels or newspaper. If you use a fryer you can just give the basket a good shake and serve it from there.

This method should produce some right-tasty Southern-Fried Striped Bass. If it doesn't, well, you might want to go back to catchin' and releasin'! Got your own recipes and ideas for the perfect Striped Bass dinner? Shoot me an email!

Happy Eatin' and we'll see you somewhere on the Delta!

Mike Lawson


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