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Bass In A Bag

By Beverly Burmeier

One of the most popular and easily caught fish of the Texas Gulf Coast is bass, a medium sized fresh water fish that populates the semi-briny marshes just inland of the gulf waters. Most fishing trips will yield at least a few of these mild-tasting fish, which can be prepared in a variety of ways including frying, baking, or grilling.

My favorite, no-fuss method of preparing bass is perfect for entertaining in laid-back Texas style. "Bass in a bag" literally means serving the fish from a brown paper bag. Here is how it works.

First and foremost, cooking must be done on the patio or in the backyard. This is not an inside job, partly because frying fish leaves lingering odors in the house and partly because this is a good way to get your husband to do the cooking.

Cut bass filets into large, bite-sized chunks (about 1-1 ½ inches square). Dip the pieces into a liquid mixture, then coat with cornmeal batter and deep fry until brown and crispy. As you remove the pieces from the hot oil, put immediately into a brown paper bag. If you are enjoying the company of truly good friends, the bag becomes the serving vessel. Simply pass around the bag and let people serve themselves from the bag.

Too casual for you? Okay, use a platter. Next time you'll love the convenience of the bag. Why a paper bag? The bag soaks up any excess grease from deep frying, thus keeping the fish crisp. Also, it insulates and keeps the pieces warm much longer than placing them on a platter. And we Texans like entertaining in unusual ways. Add pinto beans and a green salad for a truly delicious Texas seafood feast.

If you are planning a large party, and one fishing trip isn't likely to yield enough filets, bass freezes quite well. Put the filets into a plastic freezer bag, then add water before sealing. This freezes the fish in ice and limits freezer burn.

Bass in A Bag

For the Batter -- Beat egg with milk, about two tablespoons per egg (total amount depends on number of filets you are preparing). Dip bass chunks in liquid. Coat with yellow cornmeal, seasoned with salt and pepper to taste, or use a cornbread mix (such as Pioneer). I prefer the mix because it already contains leavening and sweeteners.

Fry -- Using a deep fryer, heat cooking oil to sizzling. Drop bass chunks into hot oil, being careful not to crowd fish in cooker. Quickly fry a small number of pieces at a time. Remove pieces and place in brown paper bag. Remember, the bag will keep the fish crisp and warm for a long time.

Enjoy-good friends and great fish.

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