Nashville Hot Fish

Porgy, or Sea Bream, is fried whole, doused in hot pepper oil, and set on a slice of white bread- a la Nashville Hot Chicken. This underutilized, lovely fish, is served with cornichon tartar sauce, pickles and lacto-fermented hot sauce.

yields 2 whole fried porgies

Cornichon Tartar Sauce

The acidity from the sour pickles and the bite from the shallots easily cut through the fattiness of frying. The sauce is finished with a punch of freshness from the addition of dill. Can be made in advance.

Lacto-Fermented Hot Sauce

A bright and crazy hot sauce, nice to have on hand- but needs to be started about a week in advance. Your favorite bought and bottled hot sauce would be a fine substitute.

Nashville Hot Fish

  • 2 porgies (sea bream) scaled and gutted

  • 2 garlic cloves finely chopped

  • canola oil


  • 6 T cornstarch

  • 1/2 t smoked paprika

  • 1/4 t cayenne

    Hot Oil:

  • 1/2 t cayenne

  • 1 t brown sugar

  • 1/4 t smoked paprika

  • 1/4 t garlic powder

  • 1/2 t kosher salt

  • 1/2 C hot oil (oil after frying)

Combine all of the seasonings for the hot oil in a bowl, and set aside. Combine all ingredients for the batter in large bowl.  Using a sharp knife, make 3 cuts diagonally on each side of the porgy- careful not to cut all the way to the rib bones. Stuff chopped garlic in slits and fish cavity. Season porgies with salt and pepper. Dredge both fish in cornstarch batter- make sure fish are completely and evenly covered; set aside.  Fill enamel coated cast iron skillet about halfway with canola oil; make sure pan has high walls for frying, and is large enough to fit the entire fish flat.  Set stove to medium-high, and bring oil up to 300°F.  Fry porgy one at a time: slowly drop dredged fish into oil to fry.  Fry for about 3-4 minutes.  Using tongs and a fork, carefully flip fish while keep it in tact.  Fry for about another 3-4 minutes.  Set fried porgy aside on cooling rack or cookie sheet lined with paper towels; immediately season with finishing salt.  Repeat frying with second porgy. While the oil is still hot- laddle about 1/2 C into the hot oil spice mixture, stir to combine. Set oil aside.

Nashville Hot Fish Assembly

  • fried porgies

  • 2 slices white bread

  • hot oil

  • cornichon tartar sauce

  • lacto-fermented hot sauce (or hot sauce of your choosing)

  • 5-10 cornichon pickles thinly sliced

  • 1 lemon thinly sliced

  • dill sprigs  

Place a slice of white bread directly in the middle of your plate. Place fried porgy on top of the bread. Fill fish cavity with a few slices of lemon. Ladle half of the hot oil on to the fish. Spoon cornichon tartar sauce alongside the fish. Garnish fish with sliced cornichons and dill springs. Add a few dashes of hot sauce around the plate. Repeat with the second fish.