Fried Cornmeal-Crusted Catfish
Source of Recipe
From "The Southerner's Cookbook" by the editors of Garden & Gun
"Sure, the coastal South has its many seafood delicacies, but as you move inland, the catfish reigns supreme. With good reason. A properly farmed catfish—preferably from a Southern producer and not from overseas—has a clean, mildly sweet taste. More than any food except, perhaps, chicken or potatoes, catfish cries out for a dip in hot oil. A coarse cornmeal batter does something magical. First, its sweetness is a just-right match for the fish's flavor. Here a touch of crab- or shrimp-boil seasoning does a little flavor voodoo, too. And then there's the contrast—big, soft flakes of pure white moist fish against cornmeal's grittiness and heft. You'll know each piece is perfectly done the moment it does something catfish doesn't ordinarily do: floats to the top."
List of Ingredients
◦ Peanut oil for frying
◦ 2 pounds catfish fillets
◦ Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
◦ 2 cups all-purpose flour
◦ 2 tablespoons crab boil seasoning, such as Zatarain's
◦ 2 large eggs
◦ ½ cup half-and-half
◦ 1 tablespoon hot sauce
◦ 2 cups coarse-ground yellow cornmeal
◦ Tartar Sauce (recipe follows)
Heat 1 inch of oil in a Dutch oven or large, deep-sided cast-iron skillet fitted with a frying thermometer to 375° F.
Rinse the catfish fillets and pat thoroughly dry with paper towels. Cut the fillets in half lengthwise (if very large, halve them crosswise too). Season lightly with salt and pepper and set aside.
Set up a dredging station. Combine the flour and crab boil seasoning in a small shallow dish. Beat the eggs with the half-and-half and hot sauce in a second shallow dish. Place the cornmeal in a third shallow dish. Dip a piece of catfish in the flour, shaking off excess, then into egg wash, letting excess drip away. Finally, roll the fish in cornmeal and slip it carefully into the hot oil three pieces at a time. Fry the fish for 3 minutes, carefully turn them, and continue to fry for 3 minutes more, until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack set over a baking sheet and place in a 200° F oven to keep warm while you continue to fry batches of fish. When all the fish is fried, serve immediately with tartar sauce on the side.
Serves 4 to 6
❧ Tartar Sauce:
Tartar sauce originated with the French to pair with slimy raw beef (i.e., tartare), but it wasn't long before Southerners discovered that the creamy, briny condiment made a great pairing with crisp fried seafood and began tweaking it accordingly, adding sweet (pickle relish) and heat (hot sauce) to the Gallic base of mayo and Dijon.
◦ ¾ cup mayonnaise
◦ 1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
◦ Juice of ½ small lemon
◦ 1 medium shallot, minced
◦ 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
◦ 1 tablespoon capers, drained, rinsed, and roughly chopped
◦ 1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
◦ Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, then serve.
Store any remaining sauce in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to one week. Stir before serving.
Makes about 1 cup