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Cook Your Catch: Bluegill with Mark Zona

Who doesn’t love a good fish fry? And when the fish getting dropped in the fryer is bluegill, well, to say you’re in for a treat is an understatement. What bluegill lack in size, they more than make up for in flavor. The firm, white meat has a mild, delicious flavor that flakes up nicely when fried.

For this recipe from Mercury Dockline, Mercury Pro Team member Mark Zona, co-host of “Bassmaster” and host of “Zona’s Awesome Fishing Show,” shows how he fries up this delectable little fish. It’s a simple recipe that’s easy to commit to memory, and will make you a favorite among family and friends.

Ingredients:

  • 5 pounds bluegill fillets
  • 1 box Fryin’ Magic® Seasoned Coating Mix (16 ounces)
  • Cajun seasoning
  • 1 quart of vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 stick butter-flavored Crisco® shortening
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preparation:

Start by soaking your bluegill fillets in milk for a couple hours. According to Zona, this step will enhance the flavor. And seeing how you have a bit of time on your hands before the fish is ready to be coated and fried, you might think about what you’d like to serve with your bluegill. You can go with a store-bought coleslaw or perhaps you make a nice green salad. In this case, use the time to slice up some vegetables to accompany the greens. Peppers, carrots, radishes, tomatoes and any other veggies you like will work perfectly. Of course, if you prefer, you can always go with some good old-fashioned French fries!

Once you’ve allowed the time for your fillets to soak, add one package of Fryin’ Magic and some Cajun seasoning to the bottom of a batter shaker. Next, add the fish to the top, put the lid on, tip the container upside down and shake gently to thoroughly coat each piece of fish. Now Zona doesn’t specify just how much of the Cajun seasoning mix to add, but that’s probably because when it comes to spice, everyone’s tastes are a bit different. 1-2 teaspoons should do the trick.

If you don’t have a batter shaker, you can just as easily coat your fish in another container with a lid. Whichever method you use, just be sure to coat each piece of fish evenly.

Once you have all of your bluegill coated, it’s time to get frying. In this video, Zona is using a deep fryer, but if you don’t have a deep fryer, a deep frying pan will work just as well. Whichever vessel you use, heat the oil to 375 degrees. Once the oil has reached the target temperature, add one stick of butter-flavored Crisco, if you like. It gives the fish an even richer, complex flavor.

Little trick when frying your fish – do not overcrowd the fryer or frying pan. Doing so will bring the temperature of the oil down, and when that happens, the fish will absorb an excess amount of oil and become soggy.

Fry the fillets for approximately 3-4 minutes. When the fillets begin to float and are a nice golden-brown color, you know you’re just about done. At this point, Zona recommends cooking for another 20-25 seconds. Next, scoop out the fish, drain any excess oil and transfer the fish on top of a couple layers of clean, dry paper towels.

Before you plate your bluegill, sprinkle a little grated Parmesan cheese on top. The richness of the cheese works nicely to balance out the spiciness of the Cajun seasoning. Serve alongside your side dish of choice, and, voila, dinner is served … Zona style! Enjoy.

To learn more about Mark Zona or “Zona’s Awesome Fishing Show,” visit MarkZona.com. You can also follow him on InstagramFacebookTwitter and YouTube.

Fryin’ Magic is a registered trademark of Little Crow Milling Company, Inc. Crisco is a registered trademark of Procter & Gamble Company. All other trademarks belong to Brunswick Corporation.

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