Back in the 90s I made it to Provincetown.
There, on Commercial Street, in the center of town is a restaurant where the Townies go. The Mayflower Restaurant, a somewhat nondescript place, was a restaurant that would have fit in any other small town anywhere else in small town America.
I've been in VFWs that served as the town meeting place and restaurant in Iowa and other places and they all looked fairly similar. Rows of tables, old paneling that somehow looked "Classic" instead of merely "old", a noisy kitchen you could see into if you were positioned Just So, and a waitstaff that knew just what you wanted if you were smart enough to listen and let them actually serve you.
If you ever make it to the Cape, go there. I have heard that they don't have this dish on the menu any more because only the Townies would get it. It's a shame for us out of towners because this particular recipe is why I fell in love with Catfish.
This isn't "exactly" the recipe, this is one I found when I searched for The Recipe. Somewhere buried in the cookbooks here is a large print copy of that original recipe. It was told to me by the waiter there that first visit that I found they took it off the menu but "We'll bring a plate just for you". We memorized the recipe by walking down the street chanting the ingredients, stormed into the guest house, and demanded paper and pen to write it down. I got back home and typed it into a document that is long lost...
But today I made this recipe. It may not be The Recipe, but it was very close and left me thinking, if it would make a mild fish like Catfish taste special, it would work on many other meats and tofu as well.
Yes, Vegan Catfish. What a concept.
Anyway, here is the deal, today I made the fish by marinading it overnight in the mix, then pan frying it. I cooked two filets (to perfection, I might add), by dredging it through some flour and "Italian Seasoning" in a 3 to 1 mixture. I used no oil, cooked the fish in a non stick skillet on medium heat with a single pat of butter until the filet flaked.
If you want to try, this recipe originally came from the Provincetown Portuguese cookbook. Thank you Joyce Perry Strong for sharing it with them and me. You made my lunch memorable...
This recipe works for 12 filets. I cut it down by 1/2 to 6 filets or 2 pounds of fish. Just reduce everything by 1/2.... I made mine today after marinading it for 12 hours and not two days. I also used a ziploc bag to marinade in since it made life easier to store and stir.
1-16 oz. bottle of cider vinegar
1 cup pickling spices
1 clove garlic, sliced
2 tbsp. onion powder
1 cup water
2 tbsp. saffron or turmeric
4 lbs. catfish, skinned, filleted and cut into pieces
Vegetable oil for frying the fish
Mix all the vinegar, pickling spices, garlic, onion powder, water and saffron in a bowl and add the fish. Refrigerate, stirring once a day for at least two days so the fish will marinate evenly. Remove from the bowl and drain on paper towels to remove any spices left on the fish. Toss each piece of fish in flour and deep fry in 2 cups of oil until golden brown on each side. Drain.