Mike’s Wisconsin Batter-Fried Bluegills

This recipe takes me back thirty-five years to my childhood in northern Wisconsin. My grandmother would fry up 60 fresh-caught bluegill fillets in a large black cast-iron skillet for the family. There is no better home-cooked meal – period. I hope you enjoy this special recipe as much as I do.


30 bluegill fillets, cleaned and rinsed in cold water
1 quart vegetable oil
8 oz. buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
1-1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper


Preheat a 5-quart cast-iron dutch oven over medium-high with the vegetable oil. The oil will be ready for deep-frying when a drop of water sizzles on contact.

Place the buttermilk and egg in a wide, shallow baking dish. Whisk thoroughly. Place the bluegill fillets in the dish and coat evenly.

Prepare a two-quart plastic food storage bag with the flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika. Shake well.

Shake off the fillets and add to the bag, about eight at a time. Coat evenly and transfer to the dutch oven; frying in batches. Deep fry until just lightly golden-brown. Ensure that the bluegill fillets are not overcooked. Using a Chinese spider strainer, remove and transfer to a heated platter with paper towel to absorb the excess frying oil.

Serve immediately with lemon wedges and tartar sauce.

Serves 4-6.

Grandma’s Country-Fried Chicken

This is a tried-and-true recipe from my Northwoods Grandma. I’m sure it’s close to just about every other homestyle fried chicken recipe out there. My wife had adapted the recipe for use in an electric non-stick skillet, but you just can’t beat an heirloom antique cast-iron chicken fryer. If you’re lucky enough to own one with a cover, by all means, use it.

A note on the shortening — while not exactly healthy, Crisco® shortening is the traditional way to prepare this dish. You can also use vegetable oil in a pinch.  When done, the chicken should read 165° F. in the thickest part of the meat. It will be golden brown when completely cooked, with the juices running clear. Thighs will take longer to cook. Watch the wings so they don’t burn.

Enjoy, this is a recipe I’ve adored since I was a kid.



1 cut up whole fryer chicken, rinsed in cold water and patted dry
1 cup Crisco® vegetable shortening

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. table salt
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. garlic granules
2 tsp. smoked paprika

2 cups room-temperature buttermilk

2 cups chicken stock
2 tbs. reserved flour from the dredge
4 tbs. drippings from the fried chicken
4 tbs. butter
Salt and pepper to taste



Prep the chicken and set aside on paper towels, ensuring the pieces are patted dry. Mix the flour dredge ingredients in a wide, deep mixing bowl. Add the buttermilk to another smaller bowl. Dip the chicken in the buttermilk. Then add the pieces to the seasoned flour and coat well. Shake off and place on a serving plate for five minutes. Place them back in the flour dredge, shake off and set aside for another five minutes. Reserve the flour for the gravy in the next step.

Preheat the Crisco shortening in a cast-iron chicken fryer so the temperature reads 325°. The shortening should cover about 3/4″ to 1″ of the bottom of the fryer.

Working in batches to avoid overcrowding, place the chicken pieces in the hot oil and sear until golden brown on one side, about 10-12 minutes. Cover during this process.
Carefully turn the chicken and sear again on the other side. TURN ONLY ONCE. Cover and cook for another 12-15 minutes until evenly golden-brown. Remove and place on a wire baker’s rack. Keep warm in your oven over a cookie sheet or in a covered serving dish set at 225° F.

Preparing the Gravy:
Reserve up to 4 tbs. drippings from the chicken fryer. Place in a heavy 10″ cast-iron pan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and butter. Whisk constantly for about ten minutes to form a golden roux. Add the chicken stock, salt and pepper. Increase the heat to medium and cook until reduced, about ten more minutes. Pour in a gravy boat and serve with mashed or boiled quartered potatoes.


Serves 4-6

Note: As an option, for even more flavorful chicken, brine it overnight in buttermilk, salt and some hot sauce. Place 2 cups buttermilk in a sealable container with 1 tbs. salt and a few dashes of Tabasco. Mix well, add the chicken, cover and let sit for at least 12 hours. The next day, when ready to fry, you can skip the buttermilk step shown above.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes | Culinary Compost Recipes
Tart and crisp – these wonderful fried green tomatoes make the perfect side dish for an end-of-summer dinner. It’s a great Southern recipe for using garden tomatoes that drop before they’re ripe.

Serve with Ranch or Bleu Cheese dressing and Tabasco® sauce on the side.



1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. finely-ground black pepper
3 firm green tomatoes, sliced 1/2″ thick.
1 cup crushed saltine crackers
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil for frying

Bleu cheese or ranch dressing
Tabasco® sauce



Wash and core the tomatoes. Slice in 1/2″ thick rings. Set aside on paper towel to draw the excess moisture out. This will ensure that the batter sticks.

In a small bowl or plastic shaker bag, combine the flour, salt and pepper. Mix well.
Crush the saltine crackers very fine by either using a mortar and pestle, or by placing them in a plastic food storage bag and hitting them with a rolling pin.
Place the crackers aside.
Beat the eggs and place in a third bowl.

Heat a medium-sized cast-iron skillet over moderate heat and place the cooking oil in the pan. Heat to 375-degrees F. When ready, a drop of water should sizzle on contact.

Dip the tomato slices in the egg, then the flour mixture, then the egg again, and finally in the cracker crumbs.

Fry in the pan until golden brown on each side; about two to three minutes per side. Turn them carefully so the batter doesn’t flake off.  Remove and drain on paper towel.

Serve hot with your choice of dressing and Tabasco sauce on the side.


Note: If the batter fails to evenly stick to the surface, simply re-dredge in egg, and again in the cracker crumbs.

Cajun Fried Rice

Tabasco is a great all-American brand — which makes this Asian-inspired recipe even better.


1-1/2 tbs. soy sauce
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil, divided
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. minced ginger
3 tsp. Tabasco sauce, divided
1/2 pound shrimp
3 eggs
1-1/4 tsp. salt, divided
3 tbs. peanut oil, divided
1 small onion, quartered and thinly sliced
3 cups cold cooked rice
1-1/2 cups bean sprouts
3/4 cup frozen green peas
black pepper, to taste


In a small bowl combine the soy sauce, 1 tsp. sesame oil, garlic, ginger and 2 tsp. Tabasco sauce. Mix well, stir in shrimp and set aside.

In another bowl, beat eggs with 1/4 tsp. salt, remaining 1 tsp. sesame oil and 1 tsp. Tabasco sauce.

Heat wok or large skillet until hot; add 1 tbs. oil. When hot add the shrimp mixture. Stir-fry 3-4 minutes until shrimp is done. Remove from wok and set aside.

Add another tbs. oil to wok and when hot, add onion. Stir-fry for 1-2 minutes and remove.

Heat the remaining 1 tbs. oil in wok; add egg mixture. Stir fry for 1 minute. Add cold rice and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes. Add shrimp, onion, bean sprouts, peas, remaining 3/4 tsp. salt and pepper, cook for 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

Serves 6.

Recipe courtesy Tabasco.com.

Blackened Catfish

Authentic Louisiana Blackened Catfish

Traditional Louisiana-style blackened catfish seared
on an outdoor grill in a cast-iron skillet

This authentic recipe is taken directly from a restaurant in New Orleans. The seasoning is quite hot, so you may want to experiment with the cayenne powder the first time. A good, heavy cast-iron skillet is a must with this recipe. The high temperatures required for the blackening process will warp or burn the nonstick coating off of most other pans.

The process puts off a lot of smoke, so open up your windows and turn on the exhaust fan! I’ve also had great success cooking this on my outdoor charcoal grill.

The aroma is quite pungent, but ohhh so good!


Click here for the Rub.

One or two fresh catfish fillets, pressed flat
Milk, buttermilk or olive oil
Butter for searing
Fresh lemon
Scallion for garnish


Mix the dry rub ingredients well and store in an airtight jar in your fridge or cupboard. Will keep for up to one year. This recipe uses only a couple tablespoons for dusting, so you will have plenty leftover for next time.

Make sure the catfish fillets are washed and patted dry. Press them flat with a heavy spatula. This will ensure more even cooking.

Dip each fillet in milk, buttermilk or olive oil. Shake off the excess and put in a plastic bag with about two tbs of dry rub. Shake evenly to coat.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet to medium-high. Put a pat of butter in skillet and sear each fillet for about 2-3 minutes per side until blackened. Depending on the thickness of the fish, actual time will vary. TURN ONLY ONCE OR YOU WILL PULL THE COATING OFF. Check the thickest part of the fish for doneness; it should flake easily with a fork and the juices should run clear.

Remove immediately and serve with lemon wedges and chopped scallion for garnish.

Chicken-Fried Steak with White Gravy

From most references, the history of this recipe originated somewhere in Texas during the Depression Era. Other accounts indicate that it came from German immigrants who settled in the Lone Star state around 1844-50; the recipe based on the Austrian/German classic, wiener schnitzel.

The first written reference to “chicken-fried steak” appeared around 1952. This is an entirely-Southern inspired dish which is very economical to prepare. Serve with mashed potatoes and grilled corn-on-the-cob. Enjoy!


1/3 cup vegetable oil or 1/2 stick real butter
2 lb. tenderized Angus cube or round steak
Meat tenderizer to coat steak
1 cup all-purpose flour for dredge (reserve 3 tbs. after for gravy)
1/4 cup corn starch
1 tsp. salt (or Lawry’s seasoned salt), to taste
1 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper
Dash of cayenne pepper, to taste
1 tsp. garlic powder
4 eggs, beaten
2 1/2 cups milk, warmed to room temperature
1 small onion, cut in rings
Dash of Worchestershire sauce


Put the flour, corn starch, garlic powder, salt cayenne and black pepper in a shallow dish reserved for dredging the meat. Mix well.

Beat the four eggs and place in another shallow dish large enough to coat each side of the steaks.

Round steak by nature is a slightly tougher cut of meat. Try to buy round steak that has been run through a tenderizer by your butcher. If this is not possible, you can use a meat mallet and pound each side. If the steaks are large, cut each in half. Sprinkle both sides with meat tenderizer and set aside on a plate and allow to warm up to room temperature.

Preheat a large 12″ cast-iron skillet (please, no other skillet will produce the same results with this recipe) to medium heat and lightly spray with non-stick cooking oil.

Dredge the steaks in flour, then the egg (ensuring that they are evenly coated) then back into the flour and place in the skillet with enough vegetable oil or butter to just coat the bottom surface. Increase heat to medium high and brown each side about 4-5 minutes. Work in batches, cooking two steaks at a time. Add more butter or oil if needed. Fry the sliced onion until lightly carmelized.

If the heat is too high, the batter will come off the steaks. Turning them only once will ensure the batter sticks.

When the steaks and onion are done, remove from skillet, reduce the heat to low and reserve the steaks on a baker’s rack over a cookie sheet placed in your oven at 200 degrees. Keep the onions covered in a small dish for serving.


In the same skillet, reserve three tbs. of the pan drippings. Add three tbs. of the reserved seasoned flour and three tbs of butter. Stir with a spatula until mixed. Slowly add the milk and a dash of worchestershire sauce.

Increase heat and bring gravy to a low simmer, stirring constantly with a wide spatula; breaking up any lumps and deglazing the skillet. Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary. When thickened, transfer the gravy to a serving dish.

When ready, spoon gravy over steak and mashed potatoes.

Serves 4-6.

NOTE: For more flavor, add 1 tbs. of rendered bacon fat to the pan when frying the steaks. It will create a richer gravy.