Overcoming that urge to deep-fry fish

Advocate staff photo by BETH COLVINSalmon cooked in butter and lemon is a quick, healthy way to enjoy this good-for-you fish.
Advocate staff photo by BETH COLVINSalmon cooked in butter and lemon is a quick, healthy way to enjoy this good-for-you fish.

BY BETH COLVIN

Assistant Food editor

It’s usually the other way around. People come from north Louisiana to south Louisiana to enjoy fresh seafood. But I go from south Louisiana to north.

My husband is a city boy who has several times been forced to live in the country. Let’s just say the sporting life doesn’t suit him. I love to fish, but it’s been years since I’ve had either the time, the equipment or known where to go. Here, our fish comes from the supermarket.

But in north Louisiana, I’m surrounded by a community of avid fishermen and women who are generous with their catch, usually coated in cornmeal and fried. Nothing beats a crispy piece of perch, bass or catfish that was, until just a few hours ago, knocking against cypress knees in a lake or bayou. For those of you acquainted with northwest Louisiana, the lake in question is Bistineau and the bayou is probably Dorcheat or Bodcau.

It’s probably good that my access is limited by a five-hour drive. Given ready access to a steady stream of fresh-caught, fresh-fried fish, I would probably do enough damage to keep a cardiologist in good practice for quite some time.

That’s not to say fish are unhealthy; I think we can all agree that fish are chock-full of health benefits, particularly salmon, which is readily available in supermarkets.

And while my instinct with anything with gills is to dip it in cornmeal and drop it in a boiling pot of peanut oil, we can all agree that doing so to salmon would negate the health benefits and probably otherwise ruin its unique flavor.

I’ve had bad experiences in the past when cooking salmon. Overcoming that urge to fry all fish takes time, folks. It’s a process, and it’s resulted in many a dish best suited to the garbage. This recipe comes from a friend in Montana and has thus far foiled my every attempt to ruin it.

I know it says half a stick of butter, and I know that you’re wondering how that’s better than deep-frying it in oil. It’s been my experience that most of the butter stays in the pan, not on the fish.

Also, I’ve tried this using better-for-you margarines and gotten good results. Just watch the heat for both products, you don’t want the butter or margarine to burn.