RECIPE: Fried Mississippi catfish stars in Atlanta chef’s new children’s book

Chef Jennifer Hill Booker
Courtesy of Evette Hannah
Caption
Chef Jennifer Hill Booker Courtesy of Evette Hannah

Hill Booker’s first cookbook, “Field Peas to Foie Gras: Southern Recipes With a French Accent” (Pelican Publishing, $30), and the follow-up, “Dinner Déjà Vu: Southern Tonight, French Tomorrow” (Pelican Publishing, $28.95), offer recipes that illustrate her approach.

Last year, Hill Booker, whose roots are in the Mississippi Delta, also launched a new spice line called Your Resident Gourmet Cooks. And, she’s working on opening two restaurants in Springdale, Arkansas.

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"Jelly Fries a catfish for dinner" by Jennifer Hill Booker and Erin Hill Booker, Cover illustration: J’Aaron Merchant
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"Jelly Fries a catfish for dinner" by Jennifer Hill Booker and Erin Hill Booker, Cover illustration: J’Aaron Merchant

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

But, right now, she’s excited about her new illustrated children’s book, “Jelly Fries a Fish for Dinner” (Tallahatchie Tale, $9.99 on Kindle), which is something of a departure, though Hill Booker does feature her recipe for fried Mississippi catfish in the back of the book.

“My grandparents and great aunts and uncles all were farmers in Charleston, Mississippi,” she said. “We would stay with them every summer. It would be my two sisters, and our cousins, and we just grew up there, watching them farm and cook. My daughters and my nieces and nephews do the same thing.”

Watching the children repeat an important part of their childhood brought back even more memories for Hill Booker and her sister, Erin Hill Williams, who co-authored “Jelly Fries a Fish for Dinner.”

Erin Hill Williams joined her sister in writing “Jelly Fries a Fish for Dinner.” Courtesy of Jennifer Hill Booker
Caption
Erin Hill Williams joined her sister in writing “Jelly Fries a Fish for Dinner.” Courtesy of Jennifer Hill Booker

Credit: Jennifer Hill Booker

Credit: Jennifer Hill Booker

“We wanted to capture that feeling, but through a new lens of our kids,” Hill Booker said, “so it will be a series of books, and the first one is starting with my eldest, Jenelle, whose nickname is Jelly. So, it’s just kind of a nod to our upbringing and our heritage, but it’s something every kid and every parent can relate to, with summer, and spending time with people we love.”

Deep Fried Mississippi Catfish

“My earliest memories of fried catfish were at our annual family reunion,” chef Jennifer Hill Booker writes. “Every year, my family would all meet up with all our relatives in Charleston, Mississippi, to celebrate my Big Mama’s birthday. The celebration was kicked off the Friday before Labor Day with a huge fish fry. We would eat the piping hot fish on slices of white bread, with hot pepper sauce and mustard.”

Deep Fried Mississippi Catfish
  • 5 pound, 6-ounce skinned catfish, perch, brim or buffalo fish fillets
  • 1 tablespoon salt (for the fish)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper (for the fish)
  • 4-5 cups cornmeal, finely ground
  • 3 tablespoons salt (for cornmeal mixture)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ground black pepper (for cornmeal mixture)
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 quart lard or vegetable oil
  • Heat the lard in a large cast-iron pot, over medium-high heat, until hot, 350-375 degrees.
  • While the lard is heating, combine the cornmeal, salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika in a very large bowl. Set aside.
  • Season the fish with 1 tablespoon each of salt and pepper.
  • Place the seasoned fish in the bowl of seasoned cornmeal mixture; roll to completely coat the fish.
  • Fry the fish in two or three batches. Carefully place the fish into a pot of hot lard and cook until the fillets float, about 6-8 minutes. The fish should be totally submerged in the lard while frying. If you are frying small whole fish, fry until the fish pulls away from the bone at the thickest point, about 12 minutes.
  • Remove and drain in a paper towel-lined baking pan. Serve piping hot. Serves six to eight

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving, based on six: 792 calories (percent of calories from fat, 44), 70 grams protein, 38 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 38 grams total fat (13 grams saturated), 260 milligrams cholesterol, 819 milligrams sodium.
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