If you follow me on Twitter, you know I technically crowned this beauty

Jaxcatfish

the DOW before the Sunday 11:59:59pm deadline. You may also know I’ve got a bit of a thing—okay, a big fat thing—for catfish based on my involvement with

IMG_2355

the Okie Noodling Tournament (about which I’ve posted much; check the archives for an eyeful).

At the tournament, it’s breaded & cooked up in huge sizzling fryers, but our server at Jax suggested we order our catfish blackened rather than fried, since the filet is balanced atop 3 fat fried crawfish hush puppies. Sandwiched between is spinach sauteed with onions; pooled beneath is red-eye gravy, & ringed round is red pepper jelly.

Wow, kids. What a dish. The complex blend of spices coating the tender, flaky meat erased all memories of the salt licks I encountered back in the 1980s when blackening was big. The hush puppies, too, were perfect balls of moist, dense-but-not-leadlike cornbread (the crawfish was almost nonexistent, but that’s my only complaint). And the sauces! The gravy really knocked me out with its hint of rich sweetness, I suspect from onions, balanced by the smoky chunks of bacon on whose drippings it was presumably based, plus herbs & something else—coffee, maybe, as is traditional? I’m quite sure it wasn’t tobacco, although I used to know a guy whose grandmother deliberately smoked over the stove, letting some ash fall into the pan. But that’s Carolina country cooking for you, & this isn’t. The jelly served as a stellar spicy-sweet foil.

More on the rest of the meal to come; for now, suffice it to say that Jax hasn’t lost its marbles after all these years.