August is National Catfish Month!

Aug 14, 2018

Catfish is wonderful prepared many different ways, but you really can't beat an old-fashioned Southern fish fry.

Credit Justin Fox Burks

We are all about finger-food in our house – making catfish bites our favorite way to enjoy every Southerner’s favorite fried fish.

Be sure to soak the fillets in buttermilk (or whole milk) first, because it really improves the flavor of the fish.  Freshwater fish sometimes have a “muddy” flavor, and the milk will neutralize or wash out that undesired after-taste.  I add a dash of hot sauce to add some heat.

This is a simple dish, but there are a few keys to good fried catfish: Hot oil, and the right breading. If you’ve ever had soggy, greasy catfish, it’s because the oil is too cold. You want it around 350 degrees. And use peanut oil if you can — it adds a lot of flavor. For the breading, use finely ground cornmeal if you can find it. This, sadly, is not always easy outside the South. In the absence of fine cornmeal, use the regular stuff with a little flour. Unless it is finely ground, an all-cornmeal crust tastes gritty.

As for seasoning, you can use whatever seasoning you want, from your own concoction to Lawry’s to Zatarain’s, Old Bay or even just a dash of cayenne.

The dipping sauce is important to consider too. Ketchup, cocktail sauce, and tartar sauce are delicious classics, but I love the flavor a spicy remoulade adds. It’s simple to make from scratch as the ingredients are condiments you most likely have on hand – mayonnaise, ketchup, Creole mustard and lemon juice.

This is Jennifer Chandler with The Weekly Dish. Bon Appetit!

Catfish Bites with Kicked Up Remoulade

For the Catfish:

  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • 3 catfish fillets (about 6 ounces each), cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

For the Remoulade Dipping Sauce:

  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Creole or whole-grain mustard
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large glass bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and hot sauce. Add the fish, toss to coat, and marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.

While the fish is marinating, make the remoulade sauce. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Place the flour in a shallow bowl and generously season with salt and pepper. Place the beaten egg in another shallow bowl. Place the cornmeal, sugar, and cayenne in a third shallow bowl and whisk to combine.

Remove the fish from the milk in batches and shake the excess milk off the fish. Working in small batches, lightly dredge the fish in the seasoned flour, shaking off the excess. Next dip the fish in the egg wash to coat completely, letting the excess drip off. Then dredge the fish through the cornmeal mixture, evenly coating on all sides. Place the prepared fish on a baking sheet or cutting board.

In a large stockpot or Dutch oven pour enough oil so that there is approximately a 2-inch layer of oil. Over medium-high heat, warm the oil until a few droplets of water sizzle when carefully sprinkled in the pot. In batches so as not to over crowd the pot, cook the fish, stirring to cook on all sides, until golden brown and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Serve warm with the remoulade sauce.

Serves 4.

Do-Ahead: The remoulade dipping sauce can be made up to 3 days in advance. Cover and refrigerate until just before serving.

Recipe reprinted with permission from The Southern Pantry Cookbook by Jennifer Chandler.