The Crunchy Whiskered Fish | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

The Crunchy Whiskered Fish


When my brother and I were young, there was a period of about two years where he would eat nothing but Campbell's Tomato soup and crackers. There might have been an occasional hamburger or pizza, but on any given weeknight, it was the soup. This eating habit, of course, was a blessing for my dad when it was his night to feed the kids. I'll hand it to my parents, they tried to get my brother to eat something other than soup, but he was stubborn. There were times that he would go to his room and skip dinner altogether. Luckily for my parents, I would eat everything, except collard greens. I still won't eat them. I actually got my one and only spanking from refusing to eat collard greens.

Some 30 years later, praise the Lord, my brother's taste buds have expanded beyond tomato soup. Being a single male living three hours away from mom has taught my brother to fend for himself in the kitchen. During his first few years away from home, his meals consisted of canned chili, beef stew and whatever leftovers he saved from his previous visits home. There were many desperate phone calls that were made to either me or mom to determine whether or not we thought certain leftovers were still edible after two weeks. Finally, one day, it dawned on him that the stove was something other than a storage facility. He began buying hamburger meat to make his own chili and spaghetti, and then lo and behold, he even started making lemon pepper catfish.

About two years ago my brother met his girlfriend. Unfortunately for my brother, she's a vegetarian—well, sort of; she eats fish. It has been a treat to introduce her to the family and our Southern cooking. During my teenage years and well into my 20s, I went through a semi-non-meat eating phase. Of course I knew better than to give up chicken and fish. Therefore, my family was able to adjust, even my grandmother. She's a traditional country grandmother who knows how to fry, can and pickle almost everything.

This past Thanksgiving my grandmother suggested that my brother's girlfriend try her heavenly cornbread dressing. When his girlfriend asked if it had meat, my grandmother replied, "Oh honey, it just has a little chicken; it won't hurt you none."

The entire family is beyond thrilled that my brother's girlfriend has introduced him to something new: salads. My mother called me near tears late one night. "Your brother ate a salad tonight!" she exclaimed.

"And?" I replied. Apparently, his girlfriend suggested he try the ever-popular grilled chicken salad. What amuses me the most is that he called his mother to tell her what he had eaten for dinner. I guess no matter our age, we always want to impress our parents.

When the time came for my brother to impress his girlfriend with his culinary skills, he was limited to his lemon pepper catfish. While that's a tasty way to prepare the whiskered fish, I recently suggested that he treat her to a crunchy alternative.

While my eating habits never warranted any late-night phone calls to family members, this particular catfish dish pleased my brother's non-meat eating girlfriend and his picky palate. Maybe if I finally ate a bowl full of collard greens, I would make my momma proud. We'll see about that one.

4 catfish fillets
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 cup crushed seasoned croutons
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. cracked pepper
1 tsp. freshly chopped rosemary

Drizzle oil and lemon juice over fillets. Combine croutons, cheese and spices in a large shallow dish. Dredge both sides of fillets in the mixture and place on a large non-stick foil-lined cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.

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