50 Women Game Changers in Food: Betty Fussell (Week 29)

In 2011, Gourmet released their list of the 50 Women Game Changers in Food. I stumbled on this entirely by accident. One week a couple of months ago, I was meal planning, and didn’t have access to my Ina Garten cookbooks. So, I googled the recipe I was looking for and found it on a blog that was making its way through the list (she’s number 39… I’m a little disgruntled that Rachael Ray is higher up than she is). I was inspired to do the same. I need to challenge myself more in the kitchen, and I thought this would be an excellent way to do so.  As I’ve been planning for this, I’ve been flipping through cookbooks, checking out websites and buying new equipment, and I’m excited. I’m also really looking forward to learning more about these game changing women, and introducing myself to recipes I’ve never cooked before.

(And since this entire year-long project will be all recipes I’ve never made before, I can’t promise that everything will turn out the way I want it to. But whether a dish is a winner or an epic fail, I’m going to be completely honest about it.)

Week 29 brings us to Betty Fussell.

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Betty (Harper) Fusell was born on July 28, 1927 & is a trail blazing food writer. She has authored 11 books, and contributed countless essays & articles to national publications, including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The New YorkerTravel and Leisure, Vogue, Cosmopolitan,Journal of Gastronomy, Wine and Food, Bon Appetit, Cooking Light, Redbook, Ladies Home Journal, Saveur, Gourmet, & many, many more.

“She was a trailblazer in the American food movement, though she’s not as well known as James Beard, Alice Waters or Larry Forgione. But she worked right beside them, helping persuade Americans to understand and embrace their own food culture, instead of always looking to Europe.” (source)

A few weeks before I made this, Graham had requested fried catfish for dinner. I checked out one of her books (I Hear America Cooking), and found exactly what we were looking for. This book is interesting for multiple reasons. It’s a great collection of recipes, in general, but they are sorted by region, and include background information for each one. It’s really interesting to read about how some of our favorite foods came to be.

So, catfish. Being completely honest, Graham actually cooked this. I don’t like fried food, and I really don’t like frying food. A pan of hot oil makes me very, very nervous. So, I got the fish cut, & battered, and he did the frying.
IMG_3963I was really pleased with how this turned out, and it was a very comforting dinner. It reminded me of home. My stepdad loved to fry catfish. He had a specific pot, and did it in the back yard. It was one of my favorite dinners. I remember one night I had gone out with a girlfriend for dinner, and came home to find fried catfish, hushpuppies and french fries on the island.

I had a second dinner that night.
IMG_3960Fried Catfish & Hushpuppies
(Recipe from p. 206-207 of I Hear America Cooking)

Catfish
Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. of thick catfish fillets
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup of milk
  • 1 cup of cornmeal
  • 2 T. of all-purpose flour
  • Peanut oil
  • Salt, pepper & cayenne pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Cut catfish fillets into large pieces. Sprinkle generously with seasonings, wrap in plastic wrap & refrigerate for at least an hour.
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet to 375 degrees, the oil should be hot, but not smoking.
  3. Beat the egg & milk together, and pour into a shallow bowl. Combine the cornmeal and flour, and add to a separate shallow bowl. Dip the fish first in the liquid, and then in the dry ingredients.
  4. Shake off any excess flour, and fry a few pieces of fish at a time, until each piece is golden brown.
  5. Drain fish on paper towels & keep warm in a low oven until ready to serve.

Huspuppies
Ingredients:

  • 1 T. of baking powder
  • 1 t. of salt
  • 1/2 t. of black pepper
  • 1/2 t. of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 t. of baking soda
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 C. of buttermilk

Directions:

  1. Combine all dry ingredients. Fold in the wet ingredients.
  2. Drop small spoonfuls of batter into the hot oil (same oil used for the fish), being careful not to overcrowd the pot.
  3. Let them cook for a minute or two, or until golden brown, and then drain on a paper towel.

IMG_3959 IMG_3962

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