Here’s a great idea for what you could do with that half-cantaloupe lurking in your fridge: finely chop the flesh and mix it in a salsa, as Empire State South’s Hugh Acheson suggests in his beautiful new cookbook, “The Broad Fork: Recipes for the Wide World of Vegetables and Fruit” (Clarkson Potter). The melon’s musky, floral notes—balanced with citrus and spice—perk up crispy sauteed catfish fillets in minutes without overpowering the delicacy of the flesh. Unable to find a red Fresno chile pepper, I substituted thinly sliced hot long green pepper instead. Jalapeno would work as well. A little sweet red pepper mixed in for color wouldn’t hurt a bit.
1/2 cup finely minced cantaloupe
1 fresh red Fresno chile, thinly sliced on the bias (or jalapeno, Serrano, hot long pepper, or other moderately hot chile)
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
4 catfish fillets (5 to 6 ounces each), trimmed of any connective tissue
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 sprigs cilantro
Place the cantaloupe, chile, cilantro, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the lime juice, and kosher salt to taste in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside.
Pat the catfish dry with paper towels and season all over with kosher salt. Dredge the catfish fillets in the flour, shaking off any excess. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. When the oil is shimmery-hot, place the catfish in the pan and cook for 5 minutes on one side. Then add the butter, let it foam, and baste the fillets with it, using a spoon.
Turn the fillets over and continue cooking the catfish until just done, about 3 minutes, depending on how thick the fillets are. Catfish should be cooked through but still be very moist.
Transfer the fish to individual plates, and top them with the cantaloupe salsa. Garnish with the cilantro sprigs, and serve.
Makes 4 servings