Published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang
It’s gospel, as far as I’m concerned: No catfish you ever make will ever be as good as catfish rolled in cornmeal and deep-fried. If you want to give it some extra moxie, marinate it in something good, as I do in this recipe. The other article of faith is the great superiority of small, wild catfish to big, farm-raised ones. Unfortunately, the catfish you find in the store is almost certainly farm-raised, which not only has an off-taste to me but also is too big.
The essential trick in frying fish is to keep the oil at 375 degrees. Use a fat thermometer to monitor this. Whatever utensil you have that will keep the heat up is fine. I’ve had good luck with a black iron skillet with an inch of oil, a deep Dutch oven with a couple of quarts of oil, and a good electric fryer.
Serves2 to 4
Total Timeunder 1 hour
OccasionCasual Dinner Party
Recipe Coursemain course
Dietary Considerationegg-free, soy free, tree nut free
Taste and Texturecrisp, savory
- 2 lb. small catfish fillets
- 3 Tbsp. yellow mustard
- 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp. juice from a jar of dill pickles
- 2 tsp. milder Louisiana hot sauce, such as Crystal
- 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 cup corn flour (Fish-Fry)
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1 Tbsp. salt
- ½ tsp. granulated garlic
- Peanut oil, for frying
Wash the catfish and remove the skin and any remaining bones. Unless the fillets are very small, cut them on the bias into strips about 1½ inches wide.
Blend the mustard, lemon juice, pickle juice, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl. Put the catfish fillets into the bowl and toss to coat with the marinade. Let marinate for about 30 minutes, refrigerated.
Combine the corn flour, cornmeal, salt, and garlic with a fork in a large bowl. Put 4-6 pieces of catfish into the corn-flour mixture and toss around to coat the catfish. Repeat with the remaining fish.
Pour the oil into a cast-iron skillet or a Dutch oven to a depth of 1 inch and place over medium-high heat until the temperature reaches 375 degrees. Working in batches, fry the catfish until they turn golden brown. Remove with a skimmer (or, better, the spider utensil used by Asian cooks). Drain on paper towels.
Serve with tartar sauce and pickles and hot sauce. And don’t forget the Hush Puppies.
2006 Tom Fitzmorris