Cajun-fried Largemouth Bass
By Tim H. Martin
Catch and Release, Into Hot Grease!
Ingredients and Directions:
In a lidded container, combine 1/4 cup hot sauce with 1 cup buttermilk. Soak up to a dozen hand-sized bass fillets in the liquid for a minimum of two hours, preferably overnight. Allow fillets to drip-dry in a strainer before seasoning.
Put 10 oz. Cajun Fish Fry Seasoning Mix in a flat pan. Press fillets firmly into the meal on each side two or three times to create a nice crust. (Seasoned fish fry mix is available at most grocery stores).
Heat oil (preferably peanut oil) in skillet or deep fryer to 375 degrees. Fry fish about two minutes, until they float and turn golden crispy. Remove fillets from oil and place on a tray lined with paper towels. Salt immediately on both sides as hot fish comes out of the oil. It helps so have a “salt man” standing ready with a shaker. One secret to fried fish is to salt ‘em HOT, and salt ‘em a lot.
Move Over, Bluegill!
— By Tim H. Martin, with recipe by Charlie Lane
Growing up, I never really liked the taste of largemouth bass, at least, not compared to their smaller, sweeter cousins, the bluegill.
Although bass have gorgeous white flaky meat, I couldn’t get past their stronger fishy flavor, so I only caught them for fun, and then released them.
But, that all changed in the 1990s after a conversation with friend and former Buckmasters American Deer Foundation director, the late Charlie Lane.
I was explaining to Charlie that I’d rather have a basket of bream than a stringer of bass, any day. Largemouths just didn’t eat as well.
“Timbo,” he said, “I’ve got a Cajun-fried bass recipe you need to try. Since I started cooking bass this way, the only way I’d release one now is into a skillet of hot grease!
“The buttermilk-and-hot sauce bath pulls the bass-iness right out and gives the fillets a mellow taste. You’d think the hot sauce would set your mouth on fire, but it won’t. That smoking-hot peanut oil fries the pepper-heat away, but leaves the flavor of the hot sauce.”
Charlie was right. At my next fish fry, people began reaching over the bluegill fillets to get to the bass!
Afterward, Charlie joked. “If this recipe ever gets out, they might have to add largemouth bass to the endangered species list!”
Editor’s Note: The late Charlie Lane was a colorful Southern character who served as Buckmasters American Deer Foundation founding president from 1992-1999. Sadly, he passed away in 2015, but he remains remembered by the Buckmasters family for his exceptional humor, culinary skills, his outdoors wisdom and a noteworthy passion for hunting wild turkey. For years, Charlie held the Alabama state record with a gobbler that weighed nearly 26 pounds! His recipe for Cajun-fried bass is a keeper.
FIRE GRITS are the perfect accompaniment to any fish fry.