Almost 2 months ago, during what felt like one of the coldest nights of the year, Roo and I had reservations at Hungry Mother.
We sat in our apartment, feeling the wind blow through our non-insulated windows (we live in a very old, not-cared for building), dreading going outside, despite the promise of chicken and dumplings.
We tried rationalizing blowing off the reservation:
– Hungry Mother was always booked and would have no problem seating someone in our place.
– It was a Saturday and we were tired from all the nothing we did today.
– Who wants to put on pants?
Ten minutes later I was lying down on our bed and zipping up my skinny jeans. Roo threw on a sweater and looked for his keys. For two people who had worked in the food industry before, we just couldn’t be those people that didn’t show.
It was about thirty minutes to get to Kendall Square, and even though we were thankful that the restaurant promotes using a nearby parking garage, we had no idea where we were supposed to go from there.
I called the restaurant as we walked out of the garage and within two rings the maître d’ picked up and asked me where I thought I was.
“Uhhh, near the parking garage?”
“Are you in a black jacket with black hair? And there’s a tall man walking next to you?”
I looked up at Roo. “Uh, yeah. Um, where are you?”
“We’re right across the street from where you are. In the red house.”
“You can see me?”
He laughed. “Yes, I know it sounds strange, but I can see you through the window.”
“Thanks. I guess we’ll see you soon.”
When we arrived, the same man greeted me by my first name without even asking (“Nice touch,” Roo commented) and we were seated in a lovely little space that felt like home (even though it was technically a house).
I loved the novelty of the Ball jars used as water glasses, although our table was rickety, so picking up and putting down our jar to take a drink was a risky task.
I wasn’t a fan of the fried oysters (we had had another version of it at Bergamot a month earlier, and they were amazing) as they were too salty and the cornmeal dredge that was applied was way too thick.
Roo lucked out with his ham and biscuits order. The ham was made in house, and despite the biscuits being the size of thimbles, it was a delicious bite.
But what I loved the most was the cornmeal crusted catfish. I absolutely loved the texture of the cornmeal. I never fried fish in our apartment because I never had a craving for something dusted with flour and fried. However, this cornmeal crust seemed fun to me (sure, texture can be fun), and when I scooped it together with the andouille sausage and red rice, it made me think of trying it with something bright. (Maybe a mango salsa?)
With new hopes of spring-like weather today, it just felt right to give the cornmeal catfish and mango salsa a try. Something a little fatty to take the chill off from the March winds that refuse to leave our front porch door alone, along with bright juicy mango, it may help convince us that beach season will eventually, come.
Adapted, only a little, from Hungry Mother
1 cup milk (I used 1%)
2 half pound catfish filets
1 cup cornmeal
1/8 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cayenne (I love the heat, if you don’t, use 1/2)
5 tbsp olive oil
Heavy frying pan
Large sized bowl
Place the oven rack to the middle position in the oven and preheat to 450F.
Whisk egg and milk together in large sized bowl until homogeneous. Place catfish filets into bowl and let soak while you prepare the dry ingredients/wait for you oven to preheat.
Add cornmeal, flour, salt and cayenne to the plate. Mix together until combined (I used my hands. Make sure you wash them after and not put your fingers in your eyes).
Once the oven has reached 450F, pour olive oil into the frying pan over high heat. Pick up the catfish from the milk mixture (again, I used my hands) and dredge the catfish with the cornmeal mixture, one side (and one filet) at a time. Once both filets have been covered with the cornmeal mixture, and the oil in the pan starts to shimmer, place the filets into the pan.
Fry the catfish until the cornmeal crust gets brown. You can peek underneath to see how brown the fish is getting. Once the desired browning has been reached, place the catfish in the oven (do not flip yet) for about four minutes. I typically let the fish go for five minutes our filets tend to be thick. Remove the pan from the oven, and flip the fish over. Cook the fish for 2 – 3 minutes more. Remove from the frying pan and serve.