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Red Cup Cooks: You've heard of Nashville Hot Chicken. We made Hot Catfish.

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Yes, it was delicious.

At this year's Mississippi on the Mall in D.C., our Managing Editor and Managing Editor emeritus drank beer and ate catfish in the shadow of the Washington Monument. With the former noticing the latter's propensity to slather his fried victuals in hot sauce, a suggestion was made that the recent Nashville Hot Chicken craze could just as easily be converted to a spicy variation of Mississippi's favorite dish. This idea was brought to my attention this past week, and with the aforementioned Ghost of Jay Cutler in town to visit Whiskey Wednesday and myself, we figured we could do a special Red Cup Cooks segment with this groundbreaking recipe that is sure to make millions of dollars for someone else.

For those of you who aren't in the know, Nashville Hot Chicken, made famous by places such as Prince's and Hattie B's, is fried chicken that's liberally seasoned with a mixture of oil and cayenne pepper. Typically, it's served atop a slice of white bread — you know, the kind out of a plastic bag — and garnished with sliced pickles. Since this recipe and serving method are pretty simple, we knew we could translate it to a fried catfish dish while putting a few variations of our own into it.

Let's start by pickling some red onions.

Instead of a traditional pickle, I thought it might work well to have pickled red onions as our garnish since sliced onions are often served as an accompaniment to catfish. For this, I used a quick pickling procedure that worked really well and gave the onions some sweetness.

Onions

What you need

  • 1 red onion sliced into moons
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • A few sprigs of thyme

Combine all ingredients other than onions in your pickling vessel. I used a mason jar, but any type of jar could work. Put the red onion in a colander and pour a few cups of boiling water over it, slowly. You're really just hoping to get a hint of the bite away by "cooking" the outside of the onions quickly. Add the onions to the jar, and seal it. Store in the refrigerator for at least one hour, and you're ready to go. Continue storing in the refrigerator, since the pickling isn't perfect, and bacteria could grow outside. We ate it all in one night, but if you don't, I'd toss it within a week.

How bout some broccoli slaw?

Here. Something healthy-ish so you don't hate yourself after eating fried food served atop white bread.

Broccoli Slaw

What you need

  • Some broccoli florets
  • Some mayonnaise
  • Some sugar
  • Some apple cider vinegar
  • Onion strings
  • Cranberry raisins

In a cup, mix mayonnaise, sugar, and apple cider vinegar to taste. Add that mixture to the broccoli. Stir, and sprinkle the onion strings and cranberry raisins. Serve. If you want exact measurements, you aren't going to like the rest of this article. It's all about tasting throughout to see what works for you. I would say you should definitely go light on the apple cider vinegar early since you can always just add more. Other than that, just do what you think will taste good.

Gotta have tartar sauce.

Tartar

What you need

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • Juice and zest of one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish

Combine all the ingredients, dummy. It's a sauce.

It's finally time for the fish.

Meat tray

What you need

  • 2 quarts vegetable or peanut oil
  • 1 quart buttermilk
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Cornstarch
  • Black pepper
  • Salt
  • Catfish filets (this is the most important ingredient, imo)

Cooking catfish is easy, y'all. Get two quarts of oil heated to 350 degrees in a dutch oven. Dust your catfish filets in cornstarch, dip them in buttermilk laced with hot sauce — say, one quart of buttermilk plus a tablespoon of hot sauce. Then dredge them in a mixture of a cup of flour, a cup of cornmeal, two teaspoons of salt, a teaspoon of cayenne and a half teaspoon of black pepper.

Then send your fish for a swim. It's difficult to say how long to fry them, because not all fish filets are the same size. We cooked them for five-ish minutes, but really just eyeballed it until they were golden brown enough for our liking. A good rule of thumb is that if it looks ready, it probably is.

Hot glaze

Hot sauce

What you need

  • Hot sauce
  • Cayenne
  • Paprika (sweet or "Hungarian" is the variety we used, but smoked or "Spanish" paprika probably works too)
  • Oil

Take a few tablespoons of the oil you used to fry the fish. Whisk it with a tablespoon of your hot sauce of choice. Add cayenne and paprika to taste. That's really it. Brush it onto your finished product.

BONUS RECIPE! Chicken tenders

Whiskey Wednesday didn't think the fish would turn out well because he, despite a mountain of evidence otherwise, has doubts about Ghost's ability to deep fry things. So we made tenders as well just in case. They were fine. They weren't as good as the fish, but that's fine.

What you need

  • Everything you used for the catfish, minus the cornmeal and the fish, plus some chicken tenders

Marinade the tenders in buttermilk and hot sauce for a few hours. Take the tenders, dust them in flour, dredge them back in the buttermilk, and then back into the flour once again. Make sure you've put plenty of salt and pepper (and cayenne, if you'd like) in the flour beforehand. Let the tenders sit for a minute or so before you fry them, as you want the coating to form an actual crust that won't slip off of the bird when it's frying. Fry for about four minutes, or until the tenders are golden brown and delicious.

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Plate your food. Put your fried vittles atop some white bread, brush them liberally with the hot glaze, and garnish with plenty of the pickled onions. Add the broccoli slaw (and, in our case, some watermelon chunks) to the side.

The verdict

This experiment worked. Hot catfish would be particularly good as po'boy fodder. You're welcome, chefs throughout the South looking for the hot new lunch menu item.