Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Fried Fish, Southern Style

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Let's face it...nobody fries fish like a Southerner and this recipe is not for for the fainthearted or for those with a cholesterol problem, but boy is it good!  Yes, we have all had fish sticks, particularly Mrs Paul's, remember those? I had my share when we first arrived in this country and my mother discovered her in the frozen food department.  They were a staple at our dinner table on Friday nights when, as good Catholics, we were supposed to abstain from eating meat.  For breakfast or dessert there was always Aunt Jemima or  Sara Lee.  Together with Betty Crocker, those four women kept us alive and well fed while my mother learned to cook.

I haven't had fish sticks or fried fish in years, that is, until I came to the South.  Here I learned about fried oysters and whenever my daughter is out of town, MM and I splurge on a pint.  Last week I had some cod that was kind of blah looking but still quite fresh  and perfect for frying, southern style. I was so right, and it was so good that my daughter didn't even complain about the frying.

This recipe is more about Southern frying than about fish.  In my search for the best and authentic I turned to none other than one of  the greatest American cooks and the doyenne of southern country cooking, Edna Lewis.  Her recipes represent home cooking at its Southern best..  They are a real treasure and if you don't have one of her books, you don't know what you are missing.

Mother was horrified when she saw me taking photos for the blog while the fish sat in paper towels on a plate.  I am in the camp of another great Southern cook, Lee Bailey, who said food should be photographed the way it looks with no fancy embellishments around it.

This is the kind of food you serve right out of the pan via a plate with paper towels..  It is family fare not company food.  No need for silver or fancy plates. Just you and the fish.

Yes, it is a bit messy but it comes off easily with just vinegar and water.

Make the Coconut rice ,but if you really want to be a Southerner, a yellow rice pilaf and a simple tomato salad or coleslaw and ice tea is the way to go.

 Edna Lewis's original recipe calls for freshwater fish, such as catfish, perch or whiting.  I made these with cod and it was excellent.  I bet it would be great with yellow tail !   Do make it with peanut oil which heats to a higher degree than other oils.  It is an integral part of this recipe and of southern frying.  Lastly, I have halved the original recipe so adjust accordingly if you are frying more fish.

Fried Fish Recipe Adapted from A Fish Fry For Porgy, Edna Lewis

4 people


3 Cups Peanut Oil
4 to 8 fish fillets, freshwater or saltwater


1 cup white cornmeal
2 TB all purpose flour
1 TB cornstarch
1 TB sea salt
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

lemon wedges to accompany


Mix together all the ingredients for the dredge.  In an iron skillet heat the oil,to 340 degrees F.When it reaches that temperature, quickly dredge the fish fillets in the cornmeal mix shake the excess and slip one at a time into the hot oil. Do not overcrowd the pan.  You will need to cook the fish in batches.  Fry the fish until golden brown and crisp all over, about 5 to 7 minutes.    Remove from the oil and place on crumpled paper towels. Serve immediately!

All photos Lindaraxa

Recipe adapted from Edna Lewis


  1. Your fried fish look delicious. I did some fried grouper just last week. I should not be eating anything fried but when I eat fish it MUST be fried. That Southern girl in me just has to have some fried fish from time to time. Wonderful post.


    1. I know, Carolyn, I agree...once in a while is not going to kill you, particularly if you drain it well and squeeze some lemon over it. Less calories than a heavy sauce, but unfortunately people don't think that way. Fried fish has gotten such a bad rap!

  2. Although like your daughter I don't often eat fried food, this looks so good that I just saved the recipe, and will bring it to Cleveland my next trip. Usually we have Lake Erie yellow perch at least once while I am there as a special treat, and I can't wait to try it Southern Style. Is the perch you get down there yellow perch, or some other kind?

  3. Believe it or not, I thought of you as I was posting this. Jim is not gong to go for this one, I thought so you can imagine how amazed I was at your comment. Perch should be great but I cannot be of help as I haven't dne that much fishing around here and don't know which color we get. either should be fine I think. You WILL love it!

  4. Your fish is perfect. I'm southern down to my toes, but I've never gotten the hang of frying fish, or chicken for that matter. The only food my mother fried was chicken and boy was it good. I splurge and eat fried seafood occasionally and don't feel the least bit guilty by blaming it on my southern roots.

  5. Your reference to fish sticks had me recalling, with an involuntary shudder, the Friday night fare of my own Catholic boyhood. Weren't they just the worst? As an alternative, my mother would venture into more familiar territory, serving us meatless Lebanese dishes which were infinitely more appealing.
    Your fried cod looks yummy, and that is of course the type of fish you'd get wrapped up in newspaper at Fish & Chips emporiums in the UK.

    It's Friday as I type this comment, but I fear that deep frying is simply not in my repertory!

  6. It's not that don't know what you are missing!


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