It’s been a good year for many Kansas anglers. Crappie stayed on the banks a bit longer than some springs, and locally Cheney is producing some of its best wipers in years. And, of course, there’s never a shortage of catfish to be caught.
For those ready to try something different than just rolling fillets in breading and dropping them in hot oil, here are a few recipes that are easy to prepare.
(Baked) Catfish In Chips
From tiny creeks to sprawling reservoirs, Kansas is catfish country. You can catch pan-sized channel cats at most lakes in and around Wichita parks and anglers regularly find flatheads and blue catfish up 30 pounds in several big rivers and reservoirs. This recipe will work with any catfish. To mellow the flavor of the fish, trim away any of the yellow fat at the edges of the fillet. The same goes for the dark stripe that goes down the middle of each fillet.
This recipe will work with any species of fish. It’s important to use kettle-cooked potato chips to keep the cooked fish crispy. Even those sensitive to “hot” potato chips can handle this because there’s only a light coating on each fillet.
1 lb. catfish, trimmed and cut into desired-sized pieces
2 cups jalapeno kettle-cooked potato chips, finely crushed
1 tbs. milk
cooking spray or spray butter.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Dip the fish in the mixture of well-beaten egg and milk, then press into the finely crushed potato chips until the fish is thoroughly coated. Place in a baking dish coated with cooking spray. Cook at 400 degrees until the fish flakes easily, usually about 12 minutes.
For added crispness, remove fish from the oven and turn up to broil. When hot, spray the fish with cooking spray or butter and put under the broiler for one minute.
Republican River (Wiper) Tacos
Wipers, the hybrid of white bass and striped bass, get a bad rap when it comes to table fare. Many complain the fillets are too “fishy tasting.” That entire problem can be blamed on the dark stripe the goes down the middle of the fillet, and also in a thin layer on the skin side of the fillet. Unlike many, I’d rather eat large, over five pounds, wipers than small. That way the fillets are thick enough to be trimmed with an electric or razor-sharp fillet knife. When cutting the meat from the skin during the cleaning process, I just angle the blade of my electric knife up a bit and most of the dark meat is left on the skin. What’s left is easily trimmed.
If you want to save time, buy some commercially-made cole slaw and doctor it up a bit with the listed seasonings.
1-2 lb. wiper fillet, trimmed of dark meat
3 limes, 2 juiced and zested
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. chili pepper
3 tbs. olive oil
ground black pepper
1/2 head red cabbage, shredded thin
1/2 medium red onion, sliced thin
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup diced ripe tomato
1/4 cup green onion
8 soft corn tortillas
Place fish in a sealable bag, then sprinkle with juice and zest from one lime. Add the chili powder, cumin, garlic and tbs. of olive olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Refrigerate one-half to two hours, turning to make sure all sides are covered.
Preheat a well-seasoned grill to medium-high (350 degrees) or an electric smoker to 250 degrees. Add mesquite chips to smoker, if desired.
Combine cabbage with onion, cilantro, green onion and tomato. Sprinkle with zest and juice of a half lime. Drizzle with 1 tbs. olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss lightly to combine.
Remove fish from the marinade and place on the grill or smoker. (Foil boats can be used, with several small holes in the bottom, if worried about the fish sticking.)
Grill about three to five minutes per side, depending on fillet thickness. The underside of the fillets will turn white when it’s time to turn the fish. When fillet is white throughout, it’s time to remove. You won’t have to turn the fillets if you’re using a smoker but it may take as long as 20 minutes to get the fillets cooked. Make sure fillets flake easily. Sit on warm plate until serving.
Cut remaining lime into wedges to be squeezed over the slaw and fish. Salsa, guacamole and sour cream can be added to suit individual tastes. Serve in warm, folded tortillas or taco shells.
Walleye With Tomatoes
If there’s a bad way to cook walleye, I haven’t found it. Kathy and I like this recipe because it’s quick and healthy. It could be used for small largemouth bass or bluegill.
1 1/2 lbs. walleye fillets, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup ripe, fresh tomato
1 cup olive oil
2 tbs. red wine vinegar
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
2 tbs. cilantro, chopped
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
Combine 2 tbs. olive oil in a saucepan with onions, garlic, tomatoes, cilantro, vinegar, salt and pepper and saute on medium heat. Heat remaining oil in a skillet over medium-high heat while seasoning the walleye with salt and pepper. Fry walleye cubes for about one minute, stirring enough to turn.
Quickly spoon the walleye cubes into the tomato/onion mixture and cook over medium heat until the walleye pieces are white and flake easily.
Serve on pasta or rice, if desired.
Crappie in Pecans
OK, let’s be realistic. Fried crappie, cooked so each bite ends in a “crunch” is about as good of meal as you can get when it comes to fish in Kansas. But sometimes it’s nice to mix things up a bit.
This works best with thick fillets, such as crappie that weigh an honest one pound or better. (That would be two-pounds using “crappie-speak,” the language of some of angling’s greatest exaggerators)
4 large crappie fillets, sliced into two pieces
3/4 cup pecans, finely chopped
3 tbs. butter, melted
cooking spray, butter-flavored if possible
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Soak fillets in cold water a few minutes, rinse and pat dry. Coat the fillets well with melted butter. Press fillets into chopped pecans until finely coated on all sides. Place in baking dish sprayed with butter-flavored cooking spray. Bake 10-12 minutes.
For added crispness, remove fish from the oven and turn up to broil. When hot, spray the fish with cooking spray and put under the broiler for one minute.