Chat Leftovers: Catfish nuggets


Catfish Sauce Piquante. (Bonnie S. Benwick/The Washington Post)
March 26

Well, March 20 may have been the first day of spring, but no one bothered telling Mother Nature, who dumped a little more snow on Washington yesterday. A small setback, but we here at Food are an optimistic bunch, so we have our eyes set on warmer weather — and gelato. This week Becky Krystal visits the newest location of local mini-chain Dolcezza: a factory where you can buy the stuff freshly churned. They call it soft-serve gelato, and you can read about it here.

The first round of Beer Madness, our quest to find the region’s best craft beer, produced 16 winners and a lot of conflicted judges; Greg Kitsock has the story. Also this week, David Hagedorn takes us into the Kalorama home of bread guru Mark Furstenberg, who as part of an entre­pre­neur­ship program has been mentoring five apprentices who are helping him get a new bakery off the ground. And finally, Shulie Madnick shares the secrets of making whole-wheat Indian flatbreads.

We won’t mind if you interrupt all that reading to pay a visit to today’s Free Range chat. Every week it’s an hour of freewheeling fun, and we all end up learning something. And did I mention that books are given away? So bring your questions and/or opinions, and tune in at noon sharp.

Here’s a bit of a preview: a leftover question from last week’s chat:

I’ve been cooking more fish lately, usually baking the fillets, sometimes sauteing on the stove, and my family is loving it. I see that catfish nuggets are very cheap, but I’ve never tried them. What are some ways to cook them? No deep-frying, please.

Most catfish nuggets are basically trimmings that aren’t big enough to be sold as fillets but that have too much meat just to throw out. That’s why you can usually find them at bargain prices.

I’d say your best, easiest bet with nuggets would be rolling them in seasoned breading, cornmeal or flour, and then pan-frying or baking. If you want to bread, you can use a commercially prepared breading mix or just make your own with crumbs or panko. You can serve the nuggets with a dipping sauce — honey mustard, say; or tuck them into a tortilla with some lettuce, avocado and the other usual suspects to make a fish taco; or use them to top a Caesar salad.

Another idea would be to use the nuggets in a cioppino or other kind of fish stew or gumbo. One caveat: If the trimmings are from the fishes’ belly area, they might be a little fatty, and they might make a stew seem a little oily. You can try to counteract that by cutting back on other oils in the recipe where possible. This is why frying is such a fine idea for them; it’s a good way to render some of that fat and leave it in the pan.

Some people complain that catfish tastes muddy or grassy. What I’ve always heard is that if you soak the fish in milk or buttermilk overnight, that takes care of any off flavors and makes the flesh nice and sweet. Worth trying if you have the time.

From our Recipe Finder database, at washingtonpost.com/recipes, here are a few dishes that use catfish pieces — mostly cut-up fillets, but I think they’d be just fine made with nuggets.

Catfish Sauce Piquante

Caramelized Fish Pot

Lionfish Romesco Stew

Lazy Man’s Cioppino

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