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Dr. Jimbob's Recipe for Catfish à la Mom
This is a recipe for cooking catfish that my mother improvised, based on a traditional type of coastal Chinese cooking called braised or red-cooked. It gets the latter name (a literal translation of the Chinese hong shao) from the way that the fish simmers in soy sauce until the fish and sauce both develop a brownish color. It uses old Chinese tricks - ginger, garlic, scallions, and cooking wine - to remove the fishy flavor.
To make this work, catfish is the best fish that I've come across so far. I also know that tilapia will work in a pinch, and that it works miserably with monkfish. I don't know the connection between all these things.
- catfish, I usually get 1 to 1.5 pounds, which is 3-4 steaks
- soy sauce, about 3-4 tbsp
- sherry or rice wine, about 1/3 cup
- (optional) You can substitute a small amount of balsamic or sherry vinegar for some of the soy and sherry to give it a little tanginess.
- garlic, one complete bulb (two if using small bulbs), all cloves peeled and shucked
- ginger, about 1 teaspoon, minced
- sugar, about 3 teaspoons
- scallions, usually 4-6 (or one bunch)
- mushrooms, usually 3-5, washed and sliced into relatively thin slices
- (optional) Chinese chili death sauce from the hell of the burning tongues
Makes 4-6 servings.
- Wash and cut the scallions into halves or thirds. Arrange the scallions on the bottom of a chef's pan, large frying pan, or large wok.
- Place the peeled garlic cloves and minced ginger among the scallions.
- Pour the soy sauce, sherry, and sherry vinegar or chili sauce if you're using it on top of the mix.
- Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes as you prep the catfish.
- Slice the button mushrooms and throw them in the pot also as the mix simmers.
- Wash the catfish, cut into appropriate serving slices, and place it on top of the scallions.
- Sprinkle half the sugar over the catfish.
- Allow to simmer, covered, for another 5-7 minutes. Then turn over the catfish.
- Sprinkle the remainder of the sugar on the other side of the catfish.
- Simmer for another 5-7 minutes. It may require another turn, you want the fish to flake easily but not collapse under your tongs or spatula, and you want the garlic to be nice and soft.
NB: This is my mother's recipe. You're welcome to it (she says it's OK), but please don't take credit for it without citing her.
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