Is National Catfish Day here already? Seems like it snuck on me this year! Usually I try to plan a big fish fry with the usual suspects: hushpuppies, coleslaw, pickled green tomatoes, and plenty of French fries. What? Not everyone celebrates National Catfish Day? I never miss it. Catfish is the thing that made me, me. It’s the reason I’m like this. For better, or for worse.
Growing up, sometimes I was a good little kid. But sometimes I was insufferable. I refused to eat catfish. I guess this doesn’t seem like a horrible thing in itself. But my father sold catfish for a living. And not eating catfish was teetering on heresy. We had a commercial deep fat fryer built into our kitchen. At any given moment, my father had access to thousands of pounds of catfish. For a while we lived in the Mississippi Delta, catfish ponds behind our house. All of my Dad’s friends either sold catfish or cooked it for a living. And there I was, nibbling cautiously on hushpuppies while everyone else devoured plates of bewhiskered fish.
But somewhere along the way, I got wise. Catfish is great! It has a light taste, fluffy texture, is budget friendly, and is a good source of low-fat protein. One serving has about 25% of your RDA for protein. The catfish at FRESH is all US raised, grain fed channel cat. Unlike wild catfish, farm-raised catfish feed at the top of the water, not the bottom. This make for a mild flavored fish. Broil it with a little lemon and your favorite herbs. Replace tuna for catfish in your trusty tuna salad recipe. Saute it with some taco seasoning and make a quick fish taco. Cut it into strips, coat it with panko, and bake it for easy catfish tenders. It’s darn good any old way. But I still prefer it deep fried.
So now I celebrate the thing that put my brother and me through college, that paid for my clothes and my shelter, that allowed me to grow up in comfort and security. Catfish has truly been a blessing to me. And I eat it with relish!
Here’s Dad’s recipe for perfect fried catfish. It’s the same used by Middendorf’s Seafood Restaurant in Manchac, LA. But it’ll always be Dad’s recipe to me. The real secret is to cut two lengthwise slits in the catfish fillet in between the ridges. This makes for even, quick cooking.
Dad’s Fried Catfish
5 lb farm-raised catfish fillets
1 cup corn flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Fill deep cast iron skillet with peanut oil half way to top. Heat oil to 350° F.
Mix corn flour, salt and pepper in large plate.
Cut two lengthwise slits in each catfish fillet, in between the ridges. Toss each fillet in corn flour mixture until thoroughly coated, making sure center slits are coated as well.
Gently lay each fillet in hot oil. Fry undisturbed until fillets float (about four minutes) then continue for an additional 30 seconds. Drain on paper towels.