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Chili Cornmeal Crusted Mahi Mahi and Fried Okra

June 21, 2007

Fish and Okra

It was a happy day in my life the first time I tasted fried okra. It was back in the college days, when Crystal was still living at the Market Street house, and she fried up the biggest batch of fried okra I’d ever seen. Well, it was the only batch of fried okra I’d ever seen, but I instantly wanted to see more. She sent me home that night with a quart-sized zip lock bag full of the stuff, which I stuck in the refrigerator and ate cold all week. You might think that sounds terrible, but it was an awesome snack when I was studying and writing papers and drinking beer. I’ve wanted more ever since, so I have no idea why it took nearly seven years before Crystal and I thought of frying up another batch.

When I saw fresh okra at the market last weekend, my excitement knew no bounds. I instantly snatched up handfuls and brought it home to the lady. Of course, she had only ever made fried okra with the frozen stuff before, so this was an experiment for both of us. A tasty experiment.

Okra is not something I have ever cooked with before, and I’ve heard of its tendency to get a little booger-like. Slimy vegetables aren’t high on my list of favorites, so I was a nervous. I read tons of fried okra recipes, trying to figure out if there is anything special you have to do when using fresh okra to prevent sliminess. And I found nothing. So we threw caution to the wind, and treated the fresh okra the same way Crystal’s grandma taught her to treat the frozen. We fried the crap out of it.

Combs Family Fried Okra

  • about 2 c. fresh okra, trimmed and cut into half-inch pieces
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • about 1 c. cornmeal
  • some salt and pepper
  • about 1 c. canola oil

I am not much of a deep fryer, so I was kind of nervous about this process, but Crystal pulled it off without a hitch. Well, there was only one minor hitch–the first batch of oil burned and we had to toss it and start over. So here’s my hint for the day: When you start heating up oil, watch it closely. If it starts smoking it’s too hot, and it will burn the outside of whatever you’re cooking without actually cooking the inside parts. Toss one small piece of whatever you’re cooking into the oil while it’s heating, and wait for it to start sizzling. When it does, turn the heat down a bit. Keep an eye on the heat level so the oil doesn’t burn. I think I’m not very good at this, but Crystal pulled it off pretty well.

This recipe is simple. Just toss the okra pieces in the egg so they are all coated, and then throw them in a plastic bag with the cornmeal, salt, and pepper. Toss it all together so the okra pieces are well coated. They should look like this:

Coated Okra

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large saucepan or skillet. You only need to fill the pot about 1 1/2 to 2 inches deep. When the oil is ready, fry the okra in batches, about 3/4 of a cup at a time. Each batch should cook until it starts to turn lightly brown, for about five minutes. Here’s what it looks like when it’s frying:

Frying Okra

Some of the pieces might clump together, but that’s ok. Those are the extra awesome pieces.

When they start to brown, take them out with a spider or a slotted spoon and drain them on paper towels. Check out your oil and make sure it’s not too hot (a thermometer might work, but we don’t have one. We guessed.) Then go for the next batch.

The okra did end up a little bit slimy, I gotta say. But it wasn’t off-putting. It was still a perfect delectable snack. And I will happily eat the rest of it, cold, as a snack this afternoon.

Snack

To go along with our fried okra, I cooked up some cornmeal crusted mahi mahi. I found the recipe at Epicurious, and iit sounded easy and delicious. The only problem I had was that the crust wanted to stick to the baking sheet, even though I greased it really, really well. I’m not sure why I have sticking problems. Do I just need new baking sheets? It’s a distinct possibility.

Chili Cornmeal Crusted Mahi Mahi

  • 2 mahi mahi fillets
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 T. all-purpose flour
  • 3 T. cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/3 c. mayonnaise
  • juice from one lime

Preheat the oven to 500F, and grease a baking sheet very, very thoroughly.

In a shallow bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, and chili powder. In another shallow bowl, mix together the mayonnaise and lime juice.

Salt and pepper the mahi mahi fillets, and then dredge them first in the mayonnaise mixture, then in the cornmeal mixture. I had some problems with the cornmeal getting too wet and not creating a nice crusty seal around the fish, so you might want to go light on the mayonnaise coating. Maybe baste it on the fish instead of dipping?

Then just lay the fillets in the baking sheet and bake them for about 10 to 12 minutes. Flip them once in the middle. Or don’t, because that’s when my crust came off. Voila–easy and tasty fish. What I loved the most about this is that it wasn’t spicy, it just had a nice, subtle something that complemented the tuna well. The fish stayed moist and was perfectly cooked. It was spectacular.

Now, catfish probably would have been a better pairing with the fried okra, but we’re not in Louisiana, after all. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen catfish at the market. I was surprised at how good the mahi mahi was, too, because it’s been in our freezer for awhile. But I let it thaw out all day, and it was perfect. I know frozen fish is supposed to be crap, but I’ve only had good experiences with it, so whatever. Whatever, I say!

Fish and Okra

This was a pretty happy making Wednesday night meal, washed down with a few Magic Hat Not Quite Pale Ales. It felt exactly like summer. And supposedly our back porch, which was frighteningly not level and looked in danger of collapse after this winter, has now been fixed and we are free to enjoy it’s shaded beauties once again. Yay summer.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 22, 2007 10:00 am

    The fish sounds and looks amazing. I have ALWAYS wanted to try mahi-mahi but haven’t yet.. don’t ask me, I have no idea why I haven’t.

    The okra.. I’m just going to take your word that they are awesome and live vicariously through you and your okra munching experiences. heheee!

    Ohh and your question about the broccoli (from our e-mail conversation) – I love broccoli but it hates me. I’m talking bend over cramping.. that’s what it does to me. Nothing else, no vomiting or anything else not very pleasant to talk about in someone’s comments – just cramping. I have no idea why no other veggie or other food effects me like that. I know! It sucks!

    xoxo

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