August is National Catfish Month, and that’s a pretty big deal in the South. Catfish is like… Redneck Tuna or something. (It’s OK. I’m from full Redneck stock, so I can make jokes. I kid. I jest. I’m a Redneck!)
Anyhoo… in the South, I don’t think you’re allowed to call yourself a cook unless you know how to fry up a mess of catfish. In fact, there may well be a law against it.
Now, I’ll admit, it took me a while to get around to this little bottom dweller, but only because I was so in love with chili in all it’s forms and varieties. Eventually, though, I began to take a stab at it, and I’m pleased to tell you that the recipe below has been thoroughly tested and is Redneck Approved®. So, let’s just dive right in, shall we?
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco Sauce
6 catfish fillets, about 6 ounces each
1/3 cup yellow corn meal
1/3 cup masa harina (corn flour)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Peanut oil for frying
In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and Tabasco sauce.
Arrange catfish in a single layer in a 13×9 baking dish. Pour buttermilk over fish. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and chill for at 8 hours, turning once.
When ready to prepare, let catfish stand at room temperature for 10 to 20 minutes.
In a large cast iron skillet or dutch oven, pour peanut oil to a depth of two inches. Heat oil to 360° while preparing fish.
In a shallow pan or bowl, combine cornmeal, masa harina, flour, salt, black pepper, cayenne and garlic powder. Make sure you combine them well so that every peice of fish gets the same amount of seasonings.
When the oil is at the proper temperature, remove catfish from buttermilk, one filet at a time. Let excess milk drip off, then dredge filet in cornmeal mixture. Shake off the excess and dredge again, and lightly shake to remove any excess flour.
Fry two fillets at a time, approximately two minutes per side, or until nicely golden brown.
When done, transfer fillets to a wire rack on a paper-lined baking pan. Keep fillets warm in oven at 225° until all fillets are done, and you’re ready to serve.
Serve with lemon slices or wedges and Tabasco Sauce
Some recipes will tell you that it’s OK to replace the masa harnina with plain flour or cornmeal. This is a MISTAKE! DON’T DO IT!! Too much cornmeal makes for a grainy texture, and too much plain flour takes away from the taste of the crust. Believe me, I tried to get away without it. I was sorry I did.
Peanut oil is great for frying because it has such a high smoke point. If you want real Southern fried taste, don’t substitute.
Always remember to let the excess buttermilk drip off the fillet before dredging in flour.
Keep your hands clean between dredges, until you’ve mastered the “double duty” technique I learned from Gramma – use one hand to dredge, the other to handle the spatula.
The taller the pan or skillet, the less likely you’ll get burned by popping oil. I’m just sayin’…
It generally takes about ten minutes per inch of thickness to cook fish. So, if your fillets are thick, reduce the temperature by about ten degrees and cook them longer.
When keeping the fillets warm, do not cover them, or you’ll lose that crispness to the outside.
For a true Southern Feast, serve your catfish with cole slaw, baked beans and hush puppies or cornbread. While you’re at it, learn to use “y’all” and “all y’all” properly and people will think you really are from the South!
Have fun, and don’t forget…
Play with your food!
Did you like this recipe? What recipes would you like to learn? Leave me a comment and tell me your thoughts! (And don’t forget to LIKE this post!) Share it using the tiles below.