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Pan Fried Redfish Recipe with Sautéed Shiitake Mushrooms and Purple Potato Salad

Pan-Fried Red Fish with Sautéed Mushrooms and a Potato-Tomato-Arugula Salad

In Life:

I have no idea how this happens
All of my maps have been overthrown
Happenstance has changed my plans
So many times my heart has been outgrown

— Jeff Tweedy / Wilco

That quote is from one of my very favorite Wilco songs, “You Are My Face.” The way I read it, the lyrics are about how well-intentioned lives can still go wrong. Despite the best laid plans, sometimes things just happen. Reality deals a different set of circumstances than one might have hoped for. Planned for. Perhaps needed. What are we then left to do? Deal with it, that’s what.

I have (re)learned this lesson recently through a series of personal events. I’ll spare you the details because they’re pretty personal and would take a super long time to explain anyway. Suffice it to say I had plans. I always do. But despite those plans and my best laid intentions, life decided otherwise. Some other set of circumstances than the one I had planned for/prepared for/wanted materialized. And I really had no choice but to deal with it.

I’ve read and again learned that it’s not what happens to us that matters. In the end, it’s how we deal with adversity – our reaction to it and how we move on – that matters. Bad things can happen to anyone. It’s how we choose to deal with those circumstances that defines who we are and makes us realize what we’re capable of. Once I realized and accepted that I was able to focus less on the “why” and more on the “how,” as in “how do I make the best of this and move on.” I’ve been much happier ever since.

In Cooking:

Cooking and eating local/seasonal is also subject to this particular set of circumstances. Despite how much I plan and prepare to fix a particular dish, if the farmer’s market is out of a particular item or it hasn’t quite hit season yet, I’m out of luck. I must change my plan. But what I’ve found is that sometimes this change if plans is exactly what’s needed. A new plan forms. And sometimes, nay, frequently, I get a better result than what my “original” plan would have yielded.

Pan-Fried Red Fish with Sautéed Mushrooms and a Potato-Tomato-Arugula Salad

This pan fried redfish recipe is a great example of that. I had planned to do some braised greens with this dish. But when I went to the farmer’s market on Sunday, all they had for fresh greens was arugula. So I bought it and quickly began to revise my plan and create a new side dish for my pan-fried fish. I’m pleased to say the result was very tasty and rather unique.

Key Ingredients for Fresh Purple Potato Salad

What I created was a potato salad of sorts. Nothing creamy. Nothing with mayo. A fresh potato-based salad with sliced tomatoes, chopped arugula and cane vinegar. Oh and I added in some green onion and fresh thyme for depth of flavor. I was pleased with the results. I don’t know if I could have planned this any better. But I’m sure happy with the way it came out.

Some of you that aren’t from Louisiana might not be familiar with cane vinegar. It’s literally a vinegar made from sugar cane. And I’m SO happy to have it. This local vinegar is going to save me in a recipe I’ll be bringing you next week (you’ll have to wait, sorry!!). And it sure helped with the flavor profile of the salad this week. Since I can’t really use olive or salad oil (not local to NOLA), I only used vinegar as my dressing. And it worked well. The fresh, bright salad helps to cut through the fat of the fried fish.

Steen's Cane Vinegar - made from real Louisiana sugar cane

OK, and I need to note here (because it’s sure to raise eyebrows) that I fried the fish in lard. Don’t call the police; don’t panic and please don’t even give me the side eye. Lard is a perfectly reasonable fat to fry in. It’s all natural (well at least the kind I bought is), and it helps to fry things like fish to golden perfection. And if the lard is heated properly (as it should be), then you won’t even get a lot of fat absorption on your food. My fish was dry and crispy, just as it should have been. All I’m saying here is that you should probably fear that canola or vegetable oil more than you fear lard. Lard is natural, it’s your friend. Embrace it. You’ll thank me.

Pan-Fried Red Fish with Sautéed Mushrooms and a Potato-Tomato-Arugula Salad

And let me just for a second sing the praises of these little purple potatoes in my salad. I had to take a beauty shot for you all. I found these at Hollygrove and knew I had to find a way to incorporate them into the dish. The whole fish dish was pretty much planned around these potatoes. Pretty rad. I probably should have just fried them in the lard, eh? Ha, well anyway. I had to keep something fresh on this fish dish, so it was the potato salad.

Beautiful purple potatoes

Be sure to check out my breakfast and lunch recipes for this week, Week #1 for the New Orleans Eat Local Challenge. For additional ideas and inspirations for eating local, check out my Week #2Week #3, and Week #4 recipe round ups.


Yield: 2 servings

Pan Fried Redfish Recipe with Sautéed Shiitake Mushrooms and Purple Potato Salad

This pan fried redfish recipe is accompanied by buttery shiitake mushrooms and a fresh purple potato salad that includes tomato, arugula and cane vinegar.


Purple Potato Salad:

  • 1 pound small purple potatoes, halved
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup sliced Roma or cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cups arugula, tightly packed then chopped
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion
  • 2 tablespoons cane vinegar (substitute white wine or white balsamic vinegar if needed)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Sautéed Mushrooms:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 cup thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps

Pan Fried Redfish:

  • 1 cup leaf lard
  • 12 ounces to 1 pound of redfish filets (substitute perch, trout, snapper or drum fish if needed)
  • 2 cups fish fry
  • Kosher salt - for sprinkling after frying


Purple Potato Salad:

  1. To prepare the potatoes, place them (with the first teaspoon of kosher salt) in a microwave safe container fitted with a cover and cook them on high for 10 to 12 minutes. Refrigerate until cool.
  2. Once the potatoes are cooled, cut the bigger pieces into halves. Most of the potatoes should end up "quartered" from their original whole state.
  3. Finally, combine the prepared potatoes with the remaining ingredients in the "Purple Potato Salad" section.
  4. Place in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Sautéed Mushrooms:

  1. Heat the butter in a medium-sized skillet.  Once warm, add the shiitake mushrooms, kosher salt and thyme.
  2. Stir well and cook 3-5 minutes, until mushrooms are softened and shiny.
  3. Remove from heat and set aside until ready to serve.

Pan Fried Red Fish:

  1. Heat the leaf lard in a large skillet.
  2. While lard is heating, coat the filets with fish fry and set on a clean plate. Be sure to shake off the excess fish fry before setting in the hot lard.
  3. Once lard is sufficiently hot, add the fish filets. For thicker filets, cook 5 minutes on the first side. Flip carefully and then finish for 3 minutes on the second side. For thinner filets, cook 2:30 minutes per side.
  4. Set the fish to drain on a clean plate lined with paper towels. Sprinkle fish with kosher salt while still hot.
  5. To plate up the entree, place a fish filet on a plate then top with sautéed mushrooms. Finish plate with a serving of the arugula potato salad.

Prep:15 min

Cook:15 min

Total:30 min

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