Cats Incredible

To say John Little was eccentric would be an understatement. But to say he loved catfishing couldn’t be any closer to the truth.

The late UND English professor and Mississippi native who passed away in June 2002, was a fixture at the Cats Incredible Catfish Tournament that kicks off its 22nd year tomorrow ( I believe he fished the tourney a couple of times before patrolling the waters of the Red River as a judge for the event in his later years.

I was lucky enough to know John and considered him a friend. We fished together, partied together and worked together on the late Northland Outdoors magazine, which the Herald published in the early to mid 1990s.

But what I’ll remember most about John was his Southern drawl, which he never lost despite having lived in Grand Forks since 1969. And along with his y’alls, his disses and dats, I won’t forget the incredible soul food he cooked up in his home and for a time at the Bronze Boot.

I had the opportunity to share a few meals with John. And let me tell you, he made some very tasty catfish, hush puppies and black-eyed peas.

So, in his memory, here are two catfish recipes.

Southwestern Catfish with Chipotle Corn and Zucchini Ribbons
Olive oil spray
12 ounces farm-raised catfish fillet
1 medium garlic clove, cut in half
½ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch cayenne
½ pound zucchini
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 large ears corn, husked
½ teaspoon chipotle pepper seasoning
Heat broiler. Cover a baking tray with foil and spray with olive oil. Rinse catfish and pat dry. Rub one side of each fillet with garlic. In a small bowl, combine chili powder, cumin and cayenne; sprinkle on fish. Place fish on tray, spice side up, and set aside.
Wash and trim zucchini. With a long, sharp knife, cut into very thin strips (about 1/8 inch thick). Thread onto 2 (about 8-inch) skewers. Spray lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spray each ear of corn with olive oil and sprinkle with chipotle seasoning. Place skewers and corn on baking tray with fish.
Broil 6 inches from heat source for 7 to 10 minutes, turning vegetables once, until fish is cooked through and vegetables are done.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 496 calories (30 percent from fat), 16.7 grams fat (3.6 grams saturated, 7.1 grams monounsaturated), 78 milligrams cholesterol, 37.2 grams protein, 59.2 grams carbohydrates, 9.7 grams fiber, 86 milligrams sodium.


Fried Catfish with Potatoes
3 medium russet potatoes, unpeeled
1½ cups each: peanut oil, canola oil, yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground red pepper
½ teaspoon seasoned salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6 catfish fillets, halved lengthwise
½ teaspoon coarse salt
Lemon wedges, optional
Heat oven to 300 degrees. Cut potatoes into thin slices; cover with water; set aside. Heat the oils in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Combine cornmeal, paprika, red pepper, seasoned salt and black pepper to taste in a shallow dish or pie pan.
Dredge the fish pieces in the cornmeal mixture. Cook in batches, turning once, until golden, about 2½ minutes per side; repeat with remaining fish. Keep warm in the oven.
Drain potatoes; pat dry. Fry, turning occasionally with tongs, until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain on paper towels; season with coarse salt. Garnish with lemon wedges, if desired.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 644 calories, 61 percent of calories from fat, 46 grams fat (7 grams saturated), 101 milligrams cholesterol, 27 grams carbohydrates, 38 grams protein, 392 milligrams sodium, 3 grams fiber.