Cajun Pan Fried Crappie Filets

Fresh pan fried tender flaky white crappie filets out of Rocky Fork Lake, caught by none other than my amazing husband on jigs he tied himself.  Doesn’t get more awesome than that.

cajun pan fried crappie filets

When Vic came home from an all day boat trip with his friend Sean Stone, who writes for Kayak Fishing Alliance Blog, and said he had a cooler full of crappie, he wasn’t kidding.  Sean helped contribute to our total and I’m very grateful because they were delicious! We kept them on ice until ready to filet them.  No worries, no gross pictures to follow…

Rocky Fork Lake crappie fish

“I shall call him squishy and he will be mine, and he shall be my squishy”…a little circa 2003, Finding Nemo for all you that live under a rock.  Never gets old.

Ladies and Gentleman, Mr. Crappie #1 of 20ish.crappie fish

The kids got a full lesson on how to properly filet the fish.  My kids personalities totally shine here…LJ is right up front and center while Grace has her phone camera ready for an interesting shot to share with friends.  I stayed happily behind the camera and let my man take charge in the kitchen for a change.
crappie filet

Once all the filets were ready, LJ helped rinsed them off and bag them up for the freezer.  If frozen in water they’ll stay fresh for up to a year.  We just needed a few weeks…

Before we could fry up our beautiful crappie filets I had to do a little shopping.  DARN.  To ensure we got the oil nice and perfectly hot I wanted to grab an oil thermometer.  It’s important to get the oil the right temp otherwise you risk soggy fish filets.  I never thought I’d say this, but we need a deep fryer to make the process faster and less messy next time!

crappie filets

Vic grabbed a box of cajun Shore Lunch from Field and Stream because honestly that man can’t walk into that store without grabbing something!  Much like me in a Home Goods.  Anyways…I wanted to make a homemade version for comparison that consisted of equal parts 1/2 cup cornmeal and flour, 1/2 tsp salt and paprika, and a few dashes of cayenne pepper.
cajun shore lunch

We set up our dredging station next to the stove with a paper towel lined platter nearby to drain the grease after removing the filets from the skillet.  Vic added the filets a few at a time to the egg wash then chose between each of the breading options.

See the 2 minutes left on the oven timer?  Our fries were almost done!  The fish cooks super fast so we didn’t start frying them up until the fries were ready to come out…
shore lunch cajun seasoning

When the oil was heated between 375-400 degrees we added a few filets at a time to the oil.  Allow them to fry for about 1 minute before flipping to the other side for another 30 seconds.

cast iron fried crappie filets

Look how beautiful those filets are!!  I never fry anything, but this was so darn wonderful it made me a convert.  At least for cajun crappie.
crappie fish filets

Carefully remove fish to a paper towel lined plate and give a little squeeze of lemon overtop.  Don’t forget some quality tartar sauce and french fries on the side!

The breading outcome was a complete tie! Vic and I thought the Cajun Shore Lunch breading was out of this world delicious.  It had a nice kick of spice but not too much.  Not crazy about the ingredient list, but after comparing it to my homemade version I think I could recreate it…more flour, less cornmeal and lots more paprika and cayenne!  The kids on the other hand preferred my homemade version which was great too.

fried crappie filets

Crappie can easily be substituted with another fresh white fish: perch and bluegill would be great.

Tender flaky fish, perfectly fried.  Well done babe.  You can stay in the kitchen…
fried crappie filets

While there’s not much of a recipe to share, we learned a few things about pan frying fish:
-A large bowl or ziploc bag would have been easier to dredge all the fish and toss them around
-The Shore Lunch recommended an oil temp of 350.  We fried ours closer to 400 which kept the outside perfectly crispy with tender flaky white meat inside.
-More seasoning the better!  I went rather conservative at 1/2-1 tsp of spices and I could have doubled it and included pepper as well (probably 1/4 tsp to start).  Although it was very tasty and the kids loved it, even the leftovers the following day reheated in a 425 degree oven for 8 minutes!
-More flour, less cornmeal creates a slightly fluffier batter.  Avoid clumps of batter on the fish before frying.
-Tongs do not make a good tool for removing delicate flaky fish…a slotted spoon worked much better!
-After running out of egg wash we switched to milk which worked just as well.  Next time we’ll try buttermilk that naturally coats better.
And last but not least…
-A better quality tartar sauce or homemade version.  The squeeze bottle brand I had wasn’t zippy enough.

All in all, it was a HUGE success and we want to go fishing now for more crappie.  By the way, it’s pronounced CROP-E, not crappie ;).

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