Friday, December 21, 2012

How to Clean Crappie and Catfish on an Ironing Board

Sorry that I've been absent for awhile, but I was caught-up in another pressing matter which required hands-on attention, like researching and developing a market for my one-of-a-kind NO STINK catfish dough bait, (which requires hands-on testing out in the field--"lake"), but now that it is freezing outside, I wanted to stay toasty warm today and take the time to put together this little homespun presentation on How to Clean Crappie and Catfish on an Old Ironing Board.

Hopefully, along the way, I will also find time to share some larapin great-tastin' crappie recipes (Cajun-style) with you before everything is all said and done.

So, if you are ready... let's get started.

1.  Choosing an Ironing Board.

My first word of caution is NOT to help yourself to an ironing board which is still being used by someone for its primary purpose--which is to iron clothes on. That may upset someone, especially if you've cleaned your latest catch of fish on it.

The one that you see here was going to be discarded by a neighbor who didn't need it anymore.. This is what it looks like.

Today I want to demonstrate a technique that I use to clean crappie the easy way, and without the use of electric knives on this old popular brand ironing board.

I should mention that the ironing board idea was a great one! It is very light-weight, portable and it can be setup at a comfortable working height for me (I am a tad over 6 feet tall) and merely collapse it with one pull of a small handle underneath when I'm finished processing. Plus, I can easily tuck it away in the back of my pickup truck bed. 

Since I do a lot of fishing anyway, my portable ironing board low-tech fish cleaning processor is always within reach (Johnny-on-the-Spot) when I need it for cleaning fish.

Below is a photo of some catfish which I caught one morning on about one-half of a TopCat Premium Catfish Dough Bait biscuit (you know which kind of bait that I'm talking about... don't you?). I processed these on top of the old ironing board in about 20 minutes.. 

The pectoral fins of the catfish will easily fit in one of the many different sized holes already pre-drilled into the ironing board by the manufacturer

BTW, if you wanted to just go out and buy one exclusively for this purpose, you can probably (at this writing) get one at your local K-Mart or WalMart stores for around $30 - $40 bucks. Make sure you check it out first, if you can, to see if it has a stable enough footing and that it also has all of those pre-drilled holes on the top.

The holes in the ironing board are various sizes in this old model, so it becomes very accommodating when I have to clean some of the larger catfish.

The holes can be used to anchor down the catfish solidly on top of the ironing board, and, in my experience, it does a lot better job at holding down the fish than those fish cleaning boards with a big clamp at one end. 

I cannot say the same about crappie and other species of fish with like shapes (like bass, sunfish, perch, blue gill, etc.) because these fish have a tendency  to slide around from time to time 'cause they are a bit slimy, especially while removing the scales, but the old ironing board works just fine for them, too.

Maybe later, if I can find the time,  I may bolt-down one of those large metal clamps on one end just for that purpose. I could also modify the ironing board (beneath) where I can hang a plastic 5-gallon bucket to catch the refuse.

Catfish Cleaned on Old Ironing Board

2.  Removing the Scales From Crappie Fish

I could go into great detail about the various tools which are used to remove fish scales from crappie and other similar species of fish, but the best and least expensive tool to use is a plain old kitchen tablespoon. Here is a short video which demonstrates how I do it:

3.  Making the Correct Incisions to Remove the Tiny Bones in Crappie Fish.

In this next video I will share the technique which I have developed that will show you how to take out ALL of the tiny bones from a crappie fish.  

You may refer to the diagram below to familiarize yourself with parts of the fish as I illustrate where the incisions and cuts are made. A word of precaution: it is better if you use a very sharp fillet knife and take extra care not to cut yourself in the process of cleaning your fish. 

You may want to invest in a pair of inexpensive fish-cleaning gloves for increased safety when processing fish.. You can usually find them in the sporting goods section of stores.

After descaling the crappie fish, begin by making small incisions (about a 1/4 inch deep) parallel and along both sides of the anal and dorsal fins of the fish.

This will make it easier to extract the tiny bones which are connected beneath the fin bones and which are mainly used to anchor the external fins into the flesh of the fish. 

Once these incisions are made, catfish skinning pliers can be used to gently pry the external fin bones away from the flesh, (against the grain), as well as the internal smaller bones.... all at the same time. It is sooo easy to do.

When the job is complete, all that remains in the fish are the large spinal bones, (some folks call them the comb bones 'cause they look similar to a grooming comb), and the rib cage bones--which houses the internal organs. 

When you process your crappie this way, all those tiny and annoying fish bones that no one enjoys biting into, simply vanish.

Some folks would rather bake the entire fish than only the filleted portion. They claim the large bones make the fish tastier during the cooking process. Who am I to disagree? I love the taste of crappie fish just about any way.

What's great about this technique of processing crappie fish, is ease with which to fillet them, if you want to, even after they have thawed from being frozen. You will never have to worry about "small" bones. 

In conclusion, I know there are anglers who will tell you it is so much faster and a lot easier to process crappie and catfish with electric knives... and, that's fine!

Personally, I don't use electric knives to clean my fish. Besides, the techniques which I teach will always come in handy if you ever find yourself off the electric grid, or you find yourself in a remote area without electric power.

Happy fishing! (and cleaning).

P.S. I am taking a few days off for the holidays. I haven't forgotten about those recipes, though. I will publish some after the new year rolls around.

Bon appetite!

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Sunday, December 09, 2012

Breakfast Fried Rice

Click here for the Youtube video


4 cups cooked white rice
6 eggs, beaten
1 large white onion, chopped
1/2 bunch green onion, chopped
6 slices bacon, diced
1/2 tsp course ground sea salt
1/4 tsp course ground black pepper
1 Tbsp dark soy sauce


Fry diced bacon over medium heat until most of the fat is rendered from the bacon.  Add chopped onions and saute until soft.  Remove onion and bacon, and set aside.  Add cooked white rice, stir fry until hot.  Stir cooked onion and bacon mixture back into the rice.  Push the rice, bacon, and onion to the outside of the pan.  Pour beaten eggs into the middle of the pan.  Gently and continuously push the eggs toward the center of the pan until all of the egg has cooked.  Once egg has cooked, stir it into the rice.  Stir in chopped green onion.  Stir in soy sauce, salt, and pepper.  Serve hot!

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do.  It has become a Saturday tradition in my family.  Our 12 year old perfected this recipe, and cooks it for us perfectly every time.

To make this more 'Cajun' you might consider using tasso instead of bacon, and Gaspard's DIY Cajun Seasoning instead of soy sauce, salt, and pepper.
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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Precooked Turkey Stuffings Recipes | Safe Alternatives | Cajun Boudin Stuffing vs. Dirty Rice Stuffing

Is Your Turkey Dressing Safe?

Each year thousands of Americans get food poisoning around the holidays because the Thanksgiving or Christmas turkeys were not safely prepared and cooked correctly. The same thing applies to turkey dressings.

It takes more heat to penetrate the inside cavity of a large bird. By stuffing its cavity with raw foods you are inviting a potential disaster for you, your family and guests. Salmonella is hideous and can even kill by attacking the weakened immune systems of the very young and elderly.

To be truly safe is to maintain a minimum temperature of 165 degrees F. throughout the bird--especially the dressing when turkey giblets are used in the recipe.

On the other hand, when you stuff your turkey with safe alternatives (delicious ones) you diminish the risk of food poisoning. Here are a few alternatives which are safe to use as turkey stuffing because they are all already precooked.

Cajun Boudin Stuffing

Below are a few boudin recipes (pork and chicken) which call for 'casing' so it can be made into sausages. Just omit the part about making them into sausages and use the boudin as a stuffing instead. Everything is precooked.

Can I freeze the stuffing until I am ready to stuff the bird, you ask? 

Sure you can. Just let it thaw in the refrigerator and not out in the open. If you prefer not to stuff the turkey, you can always heat-up the Cajun dressings in the microwave oven before serving.

The following links will take you to some delicious and safe turkey stuffing recipes.

  1. Secret Chicken Boudin Recipe (3-part video)
  2. Boudain (a/k/s Boudin) Balls
  3. Pork Boudin (3-part video)

Cajun Rice Stuffing

  1. Gaspard's Cajun Dirty Rice Recipe (video)
  2. Cajun Dirty Rice (Rice Dressing)  

Cornbread Stuffing 
  1. 3-Meat Cornbread Dressing

I sincerely hope that you got a few good ideas from these popular Cajun recipes. Whatever you decide, remember--safety first. 

Here is wishing that you and yours have a great and wonderful holiday season. God bless.

You can learn more about making your holiday foods more safe by visiting "Environment, Health and Safety Online".

Also, check out this excellent resource that will put your next Thanksgiving celebration on the right track. Click Here!

Bon Appetit!
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Monday, September 24, 2012

Butter Beans and Pork Steak Combo

This Butter Beans and Pork Steak Combo is delicious when served over rice or with cornbread. The combination of beans and cut-up pork steaks (in the slightly-salted and smoky pot liqueur) comes together to produce a hearty dish and makes an entire meal in itself. It takes less than a couple hours to prepare, from start to finish, and most of that time is spent stirring the beans occasionally while waiting for that tender moment when everything is cooked to perfection.


2 lbs. pork steaks
1 lb large Lima beans, dried
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic
8 cups water
1 tsp Colgin liquid smoke
2 dashes of Lea and Perrin Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Side dish: (your choice of cornbread or cooked white rice).

For this meal I used a # 10 cast-iron skillet, but any large skillet will suffice.


With the skillet, begin by heating the oil on a medium-high heat until the grease becomes searing hot. Prior to frying the pork steaks rub them down well with your favorite seasoning (salt, red pepper, black pepper, etc.). Some folks like just plain old salt and black pepper.

Today,  I used some Slap Ya Mamma seasoning (which is rather spicy) and a generous application of Watkins Pouvre Noir (black pepper), and sea salt.

The object here is to infuse as much of the rub in the steaks so that when you sear them in the hot oil, the seasonings will be immediately locked in the meat by the heat.

Subsequently, this seasoning will slowly release into the pot liquor when you simmer everything on medium-low heat. (This is all the seasoning that is required for this meal besides the liquid smoke and Worcestershire sauce.)

Tip: You do not need to fry-cook the pork steaks all the way because after you cut them up into bite size pieces they will finish cooking in a slow-simmer when you add the meat with the butter beans and water.

Next, pour the 8 cups of water into the stock pot with the onions and garlic and bring to a fast boil.

After you have reached a boil add the cut-up pork steaks, the Worcestershire sauce and liquid smoke. Allow everything to return to a boil once again.

Next, add the large Lima beans to the mix and set your heat to medium-low and allow everything to simmer for about an hour and a half, or until the beans are tender. Stir occasionally.

Serves 8 to 10.

This stuff is larapin good! Bon appetite and enjoy!
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Tuesday, September 11, 2012


If one were to trace the origins of Cajun-style cooking, a good look at the distant past would be in order. I would wager that many of today’s popular dishes originated in France and were handed over to the descendants of the original French Acadian colonists who occupied the Canadian province of Nova Scotia from 1710 until 1755, before the diaspora.
Nova Scotia offered an abundance of wild game and seafood for the taking. The lands were fertile. It was a perfect place to colonize.
When the Acadians were dispersed (Le Grande Derangement), the largest part of the tiny nation trekked southward along the North American eastern seaboard for hundreds of miles.
The colonists then turned westward to cross the Tennessee and Mississippi Rivers southward which led them to their present location (a 22 parish area of Louisiana known today as Acadiana).
Again, the Acadians settled in a geographical region blessed with a cornucopia of natural foods and fertile soils upon which to farm.
This is our contribution to some of those recipes and to which this publication is primarily dedicated. We also made room to include a few excellent Tex-Mex family meals. After all, the Great State of Texas is where I have retired, so it is appropriate to include at least some of those recipes, too.
As an honest-to-goodness Cajun, I think a true knowledge and understanding of how real Cajun food is prepared and enjoyed, one has to learn from someone who has had personal experience. I do qualify. It started for me deep in the heart of Cajun country in 1949 near an off-the-map village in Lafayette Parish, Louisiana named Indian Bayou.
Over the years, I've traveled and dined extensively throughout North America and noticed that few restaurants serve authentic Cajun dishes the old way, anymore.
Restaurant-prepared Cajun foods have fallen victim to bottom-line economics. Also, they have succumbed to a potpourri of unusual add-ins and spices which do not accurately reflect the foods I grew up on as a kid
The main ingredients in many of the original Cajun meals included onions, bell pepper, celery, garlic, and a few choice salts and seasonings. Cajuns usually cook the onions and celery first and after a few minutes the bell peppers are added, and toward the end of the cooking cycle -- fresh garlic --  to get the ultimate flavor. All Cajuns know that.
Early settlers cooked a variety of wild game, including but not limited to: duck, goose, squirrel, alligator, eel, rabbit, raccoon, possum (the list goes on), which may have contributed to the old saying that a real Cajun will eat just about anything that don't eat him first.
Some folks can't quite get the knack of cooking Cajun foods. That is because they are often too impatient to understand what low-heat and prolonged cooking times can do to enhance the flavor of foods and tenderize the toughest of meats.
You have heard, for example, that gumbo is especially tasty on the following day. That is because gumbo roux needs time to complete its magic -- that of absorbing all of the wonderful flavors of the vegetables, meats and seasoning.
Seasoning, now there’s a hot topic! The spicy tastes usually associated with Cajun foods became popular in the late 18th century when abundant resources of Tabasco, cayenne and other varieties of peppers began to flourish throughout the region.
The Spanish/Mexican influence in the Acadian Parishes grew prominently with the introduction of the world renowned Tabasco Sauce which is grown, harvested and processed at Avery Island in Iberia Parish, Louisiana.
It paved the way for the 'hot and spicy' characterization of Cajun cuisine. Not all Cajun foods are spicy, however. They do not have to be, as you will see in many of our recipes. Just add enough excitement to suit your desire is what we always advise.

Conclusion? There are a few modern and delightful Cajun recipes which can undoubtedly be found on-line. We will try to publish and share them with you periodically -- when we find them. 
However, before the old-time recipes are forever lost and forgotten, we want to share some of them with you, also. You won't find anything fancy here, merely delicious meals which are pure and simply prepared.
Please leave any comments or suggestions that you may have. Thanks for visiting and letting us share with you some great family recipes and traditions.
If you want to be kept informed of new recipes or articles, please subscribe.
Bon Appetite! ~ Jacques Gaspard
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