Lenten Fridays in south Louisiana mean seafood for supper. It’s easy enough to get a seafood fix with a fried catfish plate sold by a Catholic church, usually prepared by the Knights of Columbus or a similar pack of do-gooders. But catfish, especially pond-raised catfish, can be insipid and boring, and the church-fundraiser styrofoam takeout containers usually overflow with cheap starches: potato salad, white beans & rice, soft dinner rolls or biscuits, macaroni & cheese. If you’re lucky, one of the KCs will have discovered “mustard batter” or will have a free hand with the cayenne pepper. Otherwise, the fried fish and bland starches will veer dangerously close to a true Lenten sacrifice, and who needs the calories of fried food plus the penance of little or no taste?
After one too many bland fish chunks, I decided to upend the Lenten fried fish platter tradition. From now on, I’m having fish tacos on Friday nights. A warm tortilla, a few pieces of crispy fish, a little chopped cabbage, some avodaco, onion, cilantro, sour cream, and hot salsa: suddenly, inexpertly fried catfish isn’t a taste sacrifice.
So next time you find yourself with a foam tray of charitable good intentions, give it a culinary makeover.