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Author Notes: The bream, a flat fish that's at its best when about a pound, slightly larger than the outstretched had of an average-sized man, should ideally be cooked immediately after being caught. The preferable way to do this is outdoors, in an iron skillet, over either an open fire or on a camping stove, on the bank of the lake where you just caught them. Bream "bed" in the late spring/early summer in the South, and that's when it's easiest to catch a "mess" of them, a "mess" being enough to feed however many people you're planning to feed. Favorite accompaniments are home fries, hushpuppies, cole slaw, potato salad, watermelon, homemade ice cream, gallons of iced tea and a cooler of cold beer. —Kayb
- 1 to 3 fish per person
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 cup shortening, or peanut oil
- Wedged lemons, for serving
- Clean fish by making an incision the length of the belly, and scooping out the organs.
- Hold fish by tail, and with a spoon or the dull edge of a table knife, scrape all the scales off to a point level with the eyes. Head may be removed or not at this point, as you choose.
- Rinse fish under cold running water, and then put in a pan of cold water until ready to cook.
- Mix cornmeal (1 cup will do about 6-8 fish; increase proportionately with spices for more) with spices in a shallow bowl.
- Heat about 1 inch of oil or melted shortening until hot and shimmering on the surface. Test with a bit of hushpuppy batter; if it sizzles and begins to change color immediately, it's ready.
- Remove fish from water -- DON'T DRY IT OFF -- shake the excess water off, and dredge in cornmeal mixture. Make sure cornmeal coats the inside of the fish as well.
- Lay fish gently in hot oil. Fry only as many fish at once as will fit into skillet without touching. Fry until golden brown, (about three minutes), turn, and fry for about two more minutes until that side is golden. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels or brown paper bags, preferably on racks so they will not sit in the drained oil.
- Add more oil as needed to keep level at about 1 inch as you fry the remaining fish. Serve with wedges of lemon to squeeze over just before devouring.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Way to Cook a Whole Fish