Happy Juneteenth! This recipe from Adrian Miller’s 2014 Beard Foundation Award winning Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time also appears in Southern Holidays: a Savor the South Cookbook by Debbie Moose, whose headnote from that book follows.
Adrian Miller’s book Soul Food is a detailed and fascinating exploration of the history and culture of African American food. Miller writes that there is a long tradition of holding fish fries for community celebrations such as church events, Juneteenth, and the Fourth of July. Miller says this recipe originally appeared in a publication called The Chesapeake Bay through Ebony Eyes and that Nanticoke was the name of a Native American tribe in the area.
Makes 8 servings
1½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon rubbed sage
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 large eggs
8 catfish fillets
Mix the flour, cornmeal, sage, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, nutmeg, salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl or pie plate. In another shallow bowl or pie plate, whisk the eggs until well beaten.
Rinse the catfish fillets under cold running water and pat them dry.
Preheat the oven to 250°. Set a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet lined with paper towels.
Pour vegetable oil to a depth of ½ inch in a large, deep skillet. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering hot but not smoking.
Dip the fillets into the eggs and let the excess drip off. Dredge them in the flour mixture and gently shake off the excess.
Working in batches to avoid overfilling the skillet, slip the fillets into the hot oil. Fry the fillets, turning once, about 4 minutes on each side, until the coating is crisp and golden brown and the fish is opaque in the center. Transfer the cooked fillets to the wire rack and keep them warm in the oven until all of the fish is fried.
Serve hot with lemon wedges.