Frank's Crispy, Crunchy Catfish Fingers

2-4 cups peanut or corn oil for frying

12 fresh catfish fillets (about 6-8 ounces each)

6 cups Frank Davis Gourmet Fish Fry

First, place a deep-sided 12-inch cast iron frypan or Dutch Oven on the stove top, pour in enough peanut or corn oil so that it fills the pan about a third of the way up, and crank up the fire. Ideally, you want to heat the oil to about 375 degrees (actually, you'll fry at 350, but since the temperature will drop when you put in the fish strips, you'll need to 'overheat' the pan to start).

Then while the oil is coming to heat, lay out the fillets on the countertop and cut them into long, thin, julienne-style strips (chefs like to call them 'fingers'). When they've all been sliced, place them into a pan of iced water to chill. Then just a few minutes before you're ready to cook, dredge them thoroughly in the fish fry.

Of course, you probably have been told dozens of ways you can do this, but the proper way is to take wet fillets (no eggwash is necessary with my fish fry), lightly shake off the excess water, and dredge them into a pan of fry, being careful to thoroughly coat them all over.

Then immediately place the strips on a sheet of waxed paper. Allow them to 'rest' on the paper for at least two minutes so that (1) the ingredients in the fry adhere to the strips and so that (2) the coating doesn't fall off in the hot oil.

When your oil is ready, ease the 'fingers' into the pan a few at a time, but don't overcrowd them-give them room to fry. At the correct temperature, if the strips are fried for about 4 to 5 minutes they will come out perfect every time, tender-flaky on the inside with just the right amount of crispiness on the outside. They will also be a luscious shade of golden-brown and will be almost totally greaseless.

When they're done, all that's left is to place them on a couple layers of absorbent paper towels (or on a sheet of brown Kraft paper) to drain. Oh-and there's no disputing the point: for fried fish to be truly gourmet they should be eaten right as they come out of the frypan. So tell your invited dinner guests to be standing close by with plate in hand once the frying starts. You won't believe the difference it'll make!

What to serve 'em with? You could coat some red potatoes (which you've cut into large dice) with extra-virgin olive oil, a little salt, and a little pepper and oven-roast them until they become soft on the inside and beautifully brown and crispy on the outside. But the next time you want a little something extra as a side dish, try some Italian Pan-Fried Corn over rice. You won't believe how nicely they go together until you taste for yourself.

Accompanied by a cold tossed green salad topped with Parmesan dressing, this is the ideal meal anytime!


Chef's Notes:

1-Since the fish strips are so thin, I like to use a Flip-N-Fry to coat them. The container allows for even overall coverage and lets you remove the fingers from the fish fry without having to rummage through the mix. You can get one direct by calling 1-800-742-4231.

2-Don't let the coated fish set and rest for more than 10 minutes or the coating will lose its crunchiness and become hardened. Of course, if you don't allow the coating to 'rest' on the strips for at least two minutes it won't stick to the fish and will float away in the oil when you drop the strips into the pan.

3-Just for the record, you should never use an egg wash if you use my fish fry (even though other brands may require a wash). It will only thicken the corn mixture and make it tough. You should also not marinate the strips in mustard or vinegar or beer-they destroy the delicate flavor of the catfish.

4-You can get my premixed fish fry either at your favorite grocery or supermarket or by clicking on my You can also order direct by calling 1-800-742-4231.