Earlier this month, I spent a few days fishing on Weiss Lake in Centre, Alabama, to film an episode of Field & Stream “Hook Shots.” Centre happens to be the “Crappie Capital of the World,” and it should come as no surprise that in a place with such a title catch-and-release is not exactly the norm. In season, the smell of sizzling crappie in outdoor fryers fills the evening air. I was fortunate enough to be guided by crappie fishing legends Sam Heaton and Jack Jones. Not only were they masters at getting hooked up, but expert fish fryers. Each had his own twist on the Southern-style fish fry, which borders on a religious experience in this part of Alabama. This recipe is a combination of both Sam and Jack’s methods.
Ingredients | Serves 3 to 5
- 2 eggs
- ½cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup milk
- Texas Pete Hot Sauce (1/4-cup…but you might add to taste if you’re not into spicy food)
- ½ stick of butter
- 2 to 4 pounds fresh crappie fillets
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup corn meal
- Fresh cracked black pepper
- Peanut or vegetable oil
Combine the eggs, heavy cream, milk, and hot sauce in a large bowl. Melt the half-stick of butter and pour that in as well. After a good mixing, the marinade should have a nice pink color thanks to the hot sauce. Submerge the crappie fillets in the mixture and allow them to soak in the refrigerator for two to four hours.
Dump the flour and corn meal into a small, clean kitchen trash bag. Shake it up to thoroughly mix the dry ingredients and set the “sack” aside.
After marinating, liberally coat the crappie fillets with cracked black pepper and move them into the bag of batter. Shake the bag to give the fillets an even coating of the flour/corn meal mixture and head to the fryer.
Peanut or vegetable oil both work for this recipe, but it is essential that the oil be pre-heated to 425 degrees. Oil that’s not hot enough will make the fish soggy and greasy. If you don’t have an oil thermometer, break the head off a stick match and drop the wood shaft in the pan. If it flames up and disintegrates, the oil is hot enough. Carefully slide in your crappie fillets and fry to a golden brown. I recommend pairing this dish with a Crown Royal and Coke or a frosty Pabst Blue Ribbon.