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Slash and Burn Catfish

Canyon Grill | May 31, 2005

Featuring a menu of simple recipes bursting with flavor and freshness, Canyon Grill attracts guests to its remote location on Lookout Mountain with savory steaks and seafood dishes.

Named after nearby Cloudland Canyon State Park, and owner Lawton Haygood’s cooking technique (he developed a first-of-its-kind wood-burning grill for restaurateurs in the late 1970s), the restaurant even serves seafood flown in from a purveyor in Boston. Slash and Burn Catfish is the signature item. The whole bone-in catfish is stuffed with ginger, garlic and jalapeños into thin slashes, cut into thin slashes, dredged in flour, deep fried and then topped with black bean soup.

“The Slash and Burn Catfish exemplifies what we strive for at Canyon Grill – to serve our guests dishes that are fresh and flavorful, and pleasantly different,” Haygood explained. “With the herbs, spices and other ingredients like the jalapeños, there is a different taste in every bite, which is a main reason why it is the favorite item for many of our guests.”

Owned and operated by Haygood and his wife, Karen, Canyon Grill was a 40-seat restaurant when it opened in 1996. Today, it has expanded to 142 seats. Just by looking at the menu, Haygood’s passion for grilling is evident. Before he introduced the signature selections at Canyon Grill – and the Boathouse, a restaurant he and Karen operate along the banks of the Tennessee River in Chattanooga – Haygood developed a first-of-its-kind wood-burning grill in the late 1970s when he served seafood at his restaurant, Turtle Cove, in Dallas.

Canyon Grill’s seafood, chicken and beef is kept under ice instead of being refrigerated, which Haygood says is another element that differentiates the restaurant.

“Storing food this way keeps it from dehydrating and thus helps it retain its flavor,” he said. “It is an expensive and labor intensive process, and that is why most restaurants don’t keep their products under ice.

But we want to take every measure to ensure that our meals are superb,” he added. “People will not drive a half-hour or more for nothing short of an excellent dining experience.”

Here is the recipe of the signature dish that many of these guests drive to Canyon Grill to experience:


Catfish preparation
4 large whole catfish about 1 ½ lb
4 cups flour
4 cups milk

Stuffing mixture
½ chopped young ginger
½ cup chopped garlic
½ cup chopped Jalapeño
fry oil

Wash the cavity of the catfish and skin. Slice the catfish to the bone but not through the bone. The slices should be one inch apart and at a 45 degree angle to the bone on each side of the phone. Open the cuts and insert the mixture down to the back bone. Wrap with food wrap and store in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours.

In a large fryer or Dutch oven add 2 inches of frying oil. Begin heating the oil to 350. In 2 baking pan with high sides add the flour to one and the milk to the other. Lightly flour the fish then rub enough milk into the flour to make the fish sticky. Flour the fish a 2nd time and it should have a good breading after this application.

Curl the fish and slowly lower into the hot oil cooking one at a time. It takes about 5 minutes per fish to crisp the crust. The fish is not done at this point. When ready to serve, place all the fish in the oven @350 for 10 minutes. Inspect one of the deeper cuts for doneness. It must be opaque to the bone. Serve the fish with the dorsal up. Pour enough sauce over the fish to cover the bottom of the plate. Garnish with sprigs of cilantro


1 cup beef stock
2 cups soft black beans
1/8 cups light soy
1/8 cup chopped ginger
1/8 cup chopped garlic
1/8 cup chopped jalapeño
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 cup cut scallions

Add everything but the tomatoes and scallions to a sauté pan and bring to a simmer. Add the tomatoes and scallions and remove from the heat immediately.

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