Cooking Catfish

By Kay Steiger

Over the weekend I decided that I really wanted to eat some fish, but I was kind of not feeling “meatier” fish like salmon or tuna, so when IFAer Ben Miller suggested catfish I figured, why not? I’ve never made it and to me it had a lot of associations with Southern food. When I told one co-worker of my plan, he said the last time he had it it was “so good” with a mayonnaise sauce. Another co-worker wrinkled his nose and said it’s not a very tasty fish. I decided to take the risk.

The trick to catfish seems to be that because it’s a bottom-feeder it needs flavor added to it, rather than relying on the fish to provide it. I decided to go with breading and oven baking it as well as making a spicy mayonnaise-based sauce. As you can see below, a lot went into the sauce.

Making the Rémoulade Sauce

Making the Rémoulade Sauce

I pretty much followed this recipe from Epicurious (it comes from a 2007 issue of Gourmet) to a T. It turned out pretty tasty, but I’m curious what others think of catfish. Love it? Hate it? Have a new way to make it?

8 responses to “Cooking Catfish

  1. Looks good.

    I’ve pretty much only ever made or eaten it deep-fried (breaded and deep-fried catfish bites with a tartar-type sauce are delicious).

    Catfish are great in fish tacos, fried in a basic beer-batter.

  2. I’ve always considered catfish a very good eating fish. I’ve mostly had it deep fried with tartar sauce.

    And I never see it mentioned but the best eating fish of all is the Great Lakes smoked whitefish.

    Anyone else here ever try it?

  3. I’ve always thought that the bottom-feeding element of catfish (along with most crustaceans) makes them more tasty, not less. Of course, I have no idea where I got that, so who knows. I generally love to eat all bottom-feeders, although I didn’t really get into catfish until a couple years ago on a visit to New Orleans. I had some there that was served with a wild rice pilaf and was encrusted in walnuts somehow; very tasty. But remoulade is always a good choice.

  4. Fried catfish is basic Southern food. It’s also good blackened or broiled. Mayo-based sauces are good; also using the vinegar pepper sauce on fried or broiled catfish is good.

  5. the idea that catfish is a “bottom-feeder” is not true anymore. unless, of course, you’re pulling the cats out of the lake yourself. 99.999% of catfish for sale in the world is farmed. as such, it’s fed a specific feed and doesn’t “bottom feed” (although, sure, it still eats the same way as always).

    the myth lives on, but the flavor of catfish has been ‘cleaned up’ considerably, and now it’s just a very straightforward, mild-tasting fish. a blank canvas ready to take on flavors. very similar to tilapia (another widely farmed fish).

    your breading looks a bit heavy to me. ime, the best way to do catfish is to simply dredge it in seasoned cornmeal and give it a good hard pan-fry, then finish it in the oven. it’s good to use a bit of bacon fat mixed with oil in your pan.

  6. Deep fried catfish is definitely tasty, but it’s far from the best deep fried seafood—I’d easily take shrimp, oysters, or clams over the catfish.

    I wonder how something like Ezra’s breaded, baked version would compare to a similarly prepared cod.

  7. Oy, catfish is a wonderful, fine, fleshy fish, and not the “bottom feeder” category anymore since it’s all farm-raised anyway. And it’s fabulously easy to cook. Nevermind all this deep-frying stuff or baking stuff — just dredge it in some Frying Magic (seriously, it’s way underrated and you can find it in your grocery. If you can’t find that, look for some Zatarain’s Fish-Fri) and fry it on the stovetop at medium high, preferably in a cast iron skillet, in a little splat of veggie oil. You can do tartar sauce if you want, but I’ve never wanted more than maybe a little squeeze of lemon. Serve it with some white rice and a quick saute of spinach, and it’s a fast, fabulous meal.

    In answer to Matt, I’d say cod is superior to catfish in the deep frying category, but cod won’t fry on the stove like catfish will.

  8. Another version of the cornmeal preparation for the catfish is to mix the cornmeal with pecan meal before you pan-fry it. Yummy!

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