Oddly enough, even though I’ve lived in Columbus for the better part of 15 years now, I had never been to Comfest. I don’t know what exactly kept me away – the traffic nightmares, the horror stories, maybe knowing that it wasn’t Paul’s thing and that he would “harsh my mellow”, so to speak – in any case, year after year passed by without me going, and then looking at the pictures and stories of those who had gone, and wishing I had too.
This year, Slow Food Columbus was sharing a booth with Snowville Creamery, and I volunteered to talk to folks and answer questions for three hours Sunday afternoon. Even though it was unbearably hot, the general vibe of the festival was really nice, and I enjoyed the music coming from the Gazebo, just a couple hundred feet away.
But I was there with a mission. Everyone raved, year after year, about this “fish boat” that could be had pretty much only at Comfest. I had no idea, really, what it actually was, but I knew I had to find out. So after my shift, I wandered off, following the scent of food, until I came to a booth from “Queen’s Table”, home of the Fish Boat. I ordered one up, not exactly knowing what to expect.
The fish boat, as it turns out, entirely lived up to the hype. A nice torpedo roll, slathered with tartar sauce, topped with loads of wonderfully cornmeal fried catfish, lettuce, onion and diced tomato. You were left to your own devices to slather it up with Frank’s Red Hot to your liking.
There’s just something about the unholy mixture of tartar sauce, perfectly fried catfish, and hot sauce that makes this sandwich instantly addictive. So addictive that I wasn’t willing to wait until next year to have another, since I don’t believe that Queen’s Table has an actual brick and mortar restaurant. Once I showed him the picture and told him about it, Paul was instantly on board for trying to make it here at home.
The verdict? Our version was just as good, if not better, than the original. Not sure exactly what rolls they used, so we picked up a couple of torta rolls from our local Mexican grocery. Recipes for our fish and tartar sauce can be found below, and top it with as much lettuce, onion, tomato and hot sauce as you like.
Our version even looks similar:
Cornmeal Breaded Catfish
modified from Recipezaar
3 lbs catfish nuggets or catfish fillets
1/3 cup milk
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
Soak fish in milk for 15 minutes. Heat about 1/2″ canola oil , in deep skillet (I use my cast iron chicken fryer), until a drop of water sizzles violently but below smoking point.
Combine cornmeal, flour, salt, garlic powder, and Old Bay in a plastic bag. Shake a few pieces of catfish at a time in the breading then fry in the oil until browned and crisp, turning once. Drain on paper towels then keep hot on warmed plate. Repeat, frying small batches, until finished.
recipe from Life’s Ambrosia
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1 tablespoon minced yellow onion
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
2 teaspoons minced dill pickle
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Combine all ingredients together in a bowl. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Serve.