Shrimp-Stuffed Pan-Fried Catfish
8 skinless center-cut catfish fillets, about 2 ounces each
1⁄3 cup Fresh Shrimp Paste (see below)
Canola oil for frying
3⁄4 cup fine-ground cornmeal
3⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1⁄2 cup Avocado Puree (see below)
- Pat the fillets dry with a paper towel. Trim the fillets so that they are the same size and thickness. Set 4 of the fillets skin-side up (where the skin used to be) on a paper towel and spread each with 1 tablespoon shrimp paste; you want a nice thick layer evenly covering the fillet. Top each with a second fillet, (former) skin-side down. Refrigerate to allow the shrimp paste to set and kind of “glue” the fillets together, about 10 minutes.
- Heat the oil in a deep fryer to 325 F. Or heat 1 inch of oil in a deep skillet to 325 F. This frying temperature is lower than normal to allow the heat to reach the filling before the outside burns.
- Line a baking sheet with a cooking rack. Season the cornmeal with salt.
- Bread the fish using the 3-step fry prep with the flour, eggs and seasoned cornmeal. Fry the fish until it’s golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. If you are pan-frying, fry for 4 to 5 minutes, flip over and fry for another 3 to 4 minutes, until all sides are golden brown. Transfer the fish to a rack to drain.
- To serve, use a thin-bladed knife to cut each fish bundle in half cross-wise. Spoon a pool of avocado puree onto the center of each serving plate and stand the two halves cut-side up on the puree.
Fresh Shrimp Paste
Makes about 2 cups
2 egg whites, at room temperature
12 ounces shrimp, peeled, deveined and diced
1 tablespoon Sweet Herb Blend (see below)
- Fit a mixer with the whisk attachment and add the egg whites to the mixer bowl. Beat on low speed until frothy, then crank it up to high and beat until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted.
- Fit a food processor with the metal blade and add the shrimp to the work bowl. Pulse about 6 times, or just until the mixture is nearly smooth. Add the egg whites, herbs and a pinch of salt. Pulse to a smooth paste, about five 5-second pulses. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until ready to use. This is best used the day it is made.
- To make the sweet herb blend, gather together equal parts fresh celery leaves, parsley leaves, tarragon, and thyme (stems removed). Mince and go.
Note: Leftover shrimp paste can be used to make shrimp toast as an appetizer. Remove the crusts from white sandwich bread and cut the bread diagonally into quarters. Spread each triangle with about 2 teaspoons shrimp paste and fry, shrimp-side down, in an oiled skillet over medium heat until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Flip and fry the toasts for another minute to brown the bottom crust. Transfer to a paper towel to drain.
Makes about 1⁄2 cup
1 ripe avocado
1 plump lime
1 tablespoon water
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
- Cut the avocado in half from the north pole to the south pole and remove the pit. Cut the flesh into small chunks and transfer to a mini chopper or small food processor with about 1 tablespoon lime juice, the water and the salt. Puree until smooth, about 30 seconds. Press the puree through a fine-mesh strainer to make it even more velvety. Cover and refrigerate. If you are making and storing the puree overnight, squeeze some more lime juice over the surface of the puree before covering it so that it won’t turn dark.