Brine Ingredients

6 cups hot water

2 tbsp. kosher salt

1 cup dill pickle juice

1 cup Crystal Hot Sauce

1/2 cup orange juice

2 fresh bay leaves

1/2 tbsp. coriander

1/2 tbsp. mustard seed

3 cloves garlic

2 sprigs thyme


Breader Ingredients

2 1/2 cups Anson Mills White Cornmeal

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

salt and pepper to taste

3 cups buttermilk


For Frying

4–5 8-ounce wild catfish filets

Large cast iron pan

3 cups canola oil


To Finish

J.Q. Dickinson Ramp Salt

black pepper

Milton's Cracklin' Cornbread
Milton’s Cracklin’ Cornbread.


Combine all brine ingredients except pickle juice and hot sauce in a sauce pot and bring to a boil, making sure the salt has all dissolved, and simmer for 4 minutes. Add pickle juice and hot sauce and stir to make sure all ingredients are properly combined. Strain brine into a container to remove all seeds and herb. Refrigerate brine until cool

Place 4–5 8-ounce wild catfish filets in cooled brine and leave there for 3 1/2 hours refrigerated. While catfish is brining set up a smoker with hickory chips and get to 190 degrees. Remove catfish from brine, place in smoker and smoke for 30 minutes just to impart smoky flavor.

Once catfish is smoked, remove from smoker and transfer to buttermilk. Mix together cornmeal and flour and season to taste. Heat canola oil in cast iron pan to 325. Bread each catfish filet in cornmeal, mix and set aside. Fry catfish in stages if necessary, about 4–5 minutes per side depending on thickness of the filet.

Arrange fried filets on a platter, and season with J.Q. Dickinson and black pepper Spoon tomato gravy over catfish and serve.


Tomato Gravy


1/2 cup rendered country ham fat or bacon fat if not available

1/2 cup corn meal

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups diced onion

1 bay leaf

3 cups tomato juice

1 qt. canned heirloom tomatoes, preferably German Johnson (canned tomatoes can sub if unavailable), crushed

1 1/2 tbsp. black pepper

1 tbsp. kosher salt

1 tbsp. Crystal Hot Sauce

1/2 cup coffee

Milton's Deviled Eggs
Milton’s Deviled Eggs made with bacon, ranch and avocado and topped with homemade tortilla strips.


Heat bacon fat in a medium sauce pot on medium high heat, add onions and sweat until translucent. Add corn meal and flour to make a roux. Cook for 4 minutes, constantly stirring. Add tomato juice and coffee and continue to stir. Add remaining ingredients and simmer, about 12–15 minutes on medium heat, until all the flour taste has gone.

Pairing: Chef Milton recommends serving Catfish and Tomato Gravy with Nebbiolo Reserve from Barboursville Winery.

Written By

Savor Virginia