Bringing the country together was a major bipartisan theme during the long Presidential election process. This feature recipe brings the message to your plate by uniting culinary favorites from around the country a Southern staple, dressed up with a hint of California cuisine that embraces the colorful palate of an East Coast autumn.

Catfish is a Southern classic, particularly served pan-fried in a golden cornmeal crust. Eating it brings back fond memories of the first cornmeal-crusted fish I enjoyed flounder that I caught while fishing with my father on Long Island Sound. They were too small to fillet, so my mother dredged the whole fish in cornmeal and crisped them in her cast iron skillet.

For pan-frying, nothing beats the even heat of cast iron, although any heavy frying pan will do. And worry not about the term "fry" as this recipe uses just enough healthful oil to produce a golden-brown, crunchy exterior. Even better news: The crisp outside envelops lean, sustainably raised catfish, a choice recommended by major environmental groups as ecologically safe.

The slaw that accompanies this recipe was inspired by the one served at Bakesale Betty's in Oakland, California. It serves as a perfect example of California fusion cooking a mixture of wide ribbons of garden-crisp cabbage with a light, French-style vinaigrette dressing and just enough fresh jalapeo pepper to make your mouth sizzle. Best served ice-cold, the slaw is at its finest soon after you make it. If you do not like heat, feel free to substitute a green bell pepper for the jalapeos.

More from our magazine:  Venetian Fish Stew

The cabbage and peppers are rich in disease-fighting phytochemicals, while stone ground cornmeal offers a source of whole grains. Yellow cornmeal contains the antioxidant beta-carotene, as well, which white cornmeal lacks. Lastly, the catfish contains a source of heart-healthy omega-3 fat, adding to the nutritional benefits of the meal.

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This colorful dinner combines contrasting textures and bold flavors that are comforting and healthy. In short, just what we need right now in our country and on our plates.

Cornmeal Catfish with
Crisp Jalapeno Slaw

Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
  • 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
  • Pinch cayenne pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup low fat buttermilk
  • 1 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 4 catfish filets (about 1- 1 1/4 lb.)
  • 3 cups green cabbage, cut in 1/2-inch strips
  • 1/4 cup red onion, in paper-thin crescents
  • 1 large jalapeo pepper, seeded and cut lengthwise into thin strips
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Dijon-style mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, divided

Directions

  1. In large mixing bowl, combine cabbage, onion, jalapeos, and parsley. In small bowl, whisk lemon juice, vinegar and mustard with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Whisk in olive oil. Pour dressing over vegetables and, using tongs, turn and toss until slaw is combined and evenly coated. Cover slaw with plastic wrap and refrigerate. For maximum crispness, serve within 12 hours.

  2. On dinner plate, combine cornmeal with remaining salt, pepper and cayenne. Pour buttermilk into wide, shallow dish.

  3. Coat heavy, medium skillet liberally with cooking spray and set over medium-high heat. Add canola oil, tilting pan to coat evenly.

  4. One at a time, dip fish filets in buttermilk, then lift and shake off any excess. Dredge fish in seasoned cornmeal, taking care to coat evenly. Place fish in hot pan, and cook until golden brown and crusty on bottom, about 3 minutes. Using wide spatula, turn filets and cook until fish is white and flaky in thickest, about 3 minutes.

  5. Transfer fish to four dinner plates. Mound generous amount of chilled slaw alongside and serve immediately.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
310 calories
16 g total fat
3 g saturated fat
13 g carbohydrate
23g protein
1 g dietary fiber
430 mg sodium