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Cooking With Myra: Day of relaxation includes shopping, eating, walk on beach

Aug. 9, 2011 at 3:09 a.m.

Catfish and hush puppies at Clear Springs Restaurant between Seguin and New Braunfels.

FRIED CATFISH

1/2 cups yellow cornmeal

1/4

3 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. ground red pepper

2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. black pepper

8 farm-raised catfish fillets

Vegetable oil for deep frying

Mix cornmeal, flour and all spices in a shallow bowl. Dredge catfish fillets in flour and shake off excess.

Fill a deep fryer, or large, deep skillet, half full with oil and heat to 375 degrees. Fry fish 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

HINT: Soak fish in buttermilk to wash away the fishy flavor.

Traditional Catfish Recipe

(Egg-based batter)

4 catfish fillets

1/3 cup milk

1/2 cup cornmeal

1 large egg

1/2 cup flour

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

Lemon wedges (if desired)

Vegetable oil

In a bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper. In a separate bowl, with a fork, stir together milk and egg. Heat a 1/2

Remove and drain on paper towels.

Hush Puppies

2 cups yellow corn meal

2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. sugar

1 large egg

1/2 to 1 cup whole milk

1/4 cup yellow onions, finely chopped

1 jalapeno (seeds removed), chopped fine

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Vegetable oil

In a mixing bowl, combine corn meal, flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.

Blend in eggs and 1/2 to 1 cup milk. The batter should be thick enough to easily drop from a teaspoon into hot cooking oil.

Next, add finely chopped yellow onions and jalapeno to batter and mix thoroughly. Allow batter to set while cooking oil heats.

Start off by heating vegetable oil in a deep fryer or deep skillet to 375 degrees. Add enough cooking oil to allow the hush puppies to float, about 3 inches.

Drop batter by spoonfuls into the hot vegetable oil and fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.

By Myra Starkey

We awakened after a good night's rest in San Antonio on Saturday morning at my sister, Cindy's house.

Taylor and I were both worn out after a busy week at the clinic. We had driven to the Alamo City the night before because we had found this great plant nursery on the south side that we wanted to go to. I love plants and gardening, so I love to go to nurseries, just like an art lover loves to go to museums.

We started the day with a breakfast of homemade peach muffins and cafe lattes. We talked of nothing in particular, as we watched a backyard squirrel attacking a corn cob mounted on a stand.

It was a morning full of hope and anticipation, since I had nothing scheduled but a sunny day off to spend however I desired.

The first destination was to be the nursery. The reason that we had chosen this particular nursery is that they carry lots of unusual cacti.

Because it never seems to rain in Texas, I have developed an interest in cacti and succulents. I figure that this is the best way to make the best of a bad situation. People in Arizona don't complain about droughts. They just plant cacti.

Garcia's Tree Service was all I hoped it would be. We bought three spineless prickly pear cacti, an olive tree, a great looking Ruby Red grapefruit tree and several other succulents.

The owner's son helped us, and he was a very relaxed and gracious young fellow, who had immigrated here from Mexico about 10 years ago. We enjoyed visiting with him and feel like he gave us really good prices on what we bought. I loved just looking around the place. We loaded up our purchases in the back of the pickup and drove toward Victoria.

I asked Taylor if we were anywhere near Clear Springs Restaurant, which is my favorite place to eat fried catfish. They make it so perfectly crispy and spicy.

He says that anytime we drive northwest out of Victoria I ask him if we will be going by this restaurant, and he usually says that we aren't.

It is between Seguin and New Braunfels and we don't often go down that road.

He told me that it would only be about 30 minutes out of the way, and we didn't have to be anyplace immediately, so we could go there for lunch.

Just thinking about it started to make my mouth water.

The restaurant has been in existence for about 25 years. It is in an old cotton warehouse/general store that was built in 1873. It's a neat setting for a restaurant.

It was every bit as good as I remembered it. We started with some of their famous onion rings, hot out of the grease. They are delicately battered and deep fried, so they have a crunch while the onion inside remains soft ... yum.

The catfish came next. It is battered with cornmeal and maybe flour, seasoned with a salty spice and then deep fried in super hot grease to give it its special crunch.

Now that I think of it, all of my favorites there are deep fried with the exception of the sweet tea and coleslaw.

Fully filled, we rolled out and headed to my next destination, the beach. Taylor had promised me a trip to the sandy shore for a long time. I had imagined walking along, hand in hand, as the waves crashed nearby.

I am sure he thought of the half hour ferry line as he smiled and said, "sure honey" and that was when I asked if this was like an early birthday. This conversation occurred as we were passing through Tivoli, which some might view as a place that lacks some of the more familiar types of entertainment. To me, it looks like a really nice community.

Anyway, they do have a Dairy Queen, but I thought if I asked to stop for a Heath Bar blizzard, I might be pushing my luck after the huge catfish lunch.

On the corner, right at the turn is a vendor selling tie-dyed shirts and dresses. Being a Bohemian, I love tie-dyed anything. My friend, Janet, tells me often that women my age absolutely should never wear anything without sleeves or tie-dyed.

Since Janet was not in the car, I asked Taylor to stop at the roadside vendor. Hanging on the edges of the tent was a rainbow of bright colored shirts.

I struck up a conversation about the technique and found out that they were making them at home.

I bought a great looking aqua blue retro shirt-dress. I grinned from ear to ear, humming and got back in the truck.

Next stop was the beach, and by the time we made it across the ferry line, which is a great exercise in patience, it was near 7 p.m. We parked on the sand at the Port Aransas beach. There was still at least an hour of sunshine.

I was dressed in a fishing shirt and nylon shorts and headed for the water with Taylor in tow. I got in a little too deep and almost soaked my shorts, but the water was inviting, the sky a deep blue.

Thousands of other people had also chosen this day to go to the beach, and the laughter and squeal of children could be heard over the surf.

We walked for several miles along the shore, allowing the warm, foamy surf to lap up to my ankles. It was hard to wipe the smile from my face as I looked out into the water, wishing I had my bathing suit and could go for a swim. I made a mental note to bring a beach chair and my swimsuit next time.

The sun was setting and the sky had turned a smoky, deep blue as the sun disappeared. I was all smiles on the way home having enjoyed a special day and it wasn't even my birthday.

I wish I could tell you that I have the exact recipe for Clear Springs fried catfish, but I would be lying. Here is my recipe from Louisiana for fried everything. The batter works on shrimp, fish, chicken, alligator, frog legs and anything else.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or email myra@vicad.com.

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