In a mixing bowl, whisk the milk, mustard, hot pepper sauce, salt and cayenne together. Cut the catfish fillets into 1-inch strips on the diagonal. Lay the pieces of fish in the milk mixture, stir to evenly distribute, cover, refrigerate, and marinate for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal and 3 tablespoons of the Essence. Remove the fish from the refrigerator and, working in batches, remove the fish from the marinade (shaking to remove any excess) and dredge in the cornmeal mixture, coating each side completely. Repeat until all fish is coated. In a large cast iron skillet, add enough vegetable oil to measure at least 1 1/2 inches up the sides of the skillet. Heat the vegetable oil to 350 degrees F. When the oil is hot, working in batches, gently lay the fish pieces in the hot oil and fry until golden brown and the meat is flaky, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the fish from the oil and drain on a paper-lined plate. Repeat with the remaining fish. Season the fish with the remaining Essence.
While the fish is frying, cut the po'boy breads in half lengthwise and, if the bread is thick and dense, use your fingers to remove some of the inner portion of the bread on both sides to form a sort of hollowed out area for the fish. Transfer the bread to the oven and lightly toast, 3 to 5 minutes. Spread both cut sides of the bread with the mayonnaise (about 2 tablespoons per sandwich), and divide the catfish evenly among the sandwich bottoms. Spoon the Chow Chow over the catfish (about 4 tablespoons per sandwich), and garnish each sandwich with shredded lettuce, thinly sliced tomato, and sliced green pickles, if desired. Serve with hot sauce for guests to use at their own discretion.
Combine all ingredients thoroughly.
Yield: 2/3 cup
Recipe from "New New Orleans Cooking", by Emeril Lagasse and Jessie Tirsch, published by William Morrow, 1993.
Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, and pickling spice in a large non-reactive saucepan over high heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain the liquid. Discard solids. Return the pickling liquid to the saucepan and set aside while you assemble the vegetables.
In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse the tomatoes until finely chopped but not pureed, about 10 times. Add the tomatoes to the saucepan containing the pickling liquid. Add the peppers, onions, and jalapeno to the processor, in batches if necessary, and pulse until the vegetables are finely chopped but not pureed, about 10 times. Add the mixture to the saucepan. Over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and spoon into 7 pint size sterile preserving jars (or 14 1/2-pint jars), filling the mixture to within 1/4-inch of the top. With a clean damp towel, wipe the rims to clean thoroughly and fit with a hot lid. Tightly screw on the metal ring. Process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes. Using tongs, remove the jars, place on a towel, and let cool. Test the seals. Tighten the rings. Store in a cool dark place. Let age for 2 weeks before using.
Yield: 7 pints
Inactive Prep Time: 2 weeks