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The secret to delicious catfish is not to overcook it. Once its flesh has become opaque and can be easily pierced with a fork, it’s done.
Catfish is known to be an excellent source of vitamin B12, in addition to potassium and niacin. My doctor said I needed more vitamin D and catfish fit the bill, probably because of its tendency to eat algae and anything else along the bottom of the ponds.
To help minimize any of that “muddy” taste, catfish should be marinated in lemon juice or buttermilk for at least 30 minutes before cooking. Catfish can be cooked in a variety of ways using various cooking methods, such as baking, grilling, pan-frying, deep-frying, poaching and broiling. No matter what cooking method you use, be sure to rinse your fish and pat dry with a paper towel first.
My favorite methods are pan-frying and baking.
When pan-frying, be sure to use a deep heavy skillet, preferably cast-iron, since you’ll be using enough oil to cover the filets or strips. Try adding a few jalapeño peppers to the cooking oil for some added “heat.” Dredge the filets in flour and seasonings and then shake off any excess flour. Don’t add the fish until the frying pan is hot. Cook them until golden brown, turning once.
For baking, place the fish fillets in a baking pan and then cover with a your favorite sauce made with herbs, spices or vegetables and liquid. Bake in preheated 400-degree oven until a knife sliced into the thickest part reveals opaque flesh and is still moist.
Catfish are also great when grilled. Just baste the filets with butter, oil, or marinade and then place directly on a greased grill. Cook at medium heat (350 degrees) until opaque and moist on the inside, about 5-6 minutes for fish less than 1-inch thick and 10-12 minutes for thicker fish.
For those who prefer the deep-frying method, the cooker should be less than half full of oil. Heat to 375 degrees. Cut the catfish filets into strips about an inch wide and no more than three inches long. Dip them in batter, drain, and then place the strips into the hot oil. Cook until brown, about 2-3 minutes.
Golden Fried Catfish Strips
This can be done in a deep, cast iron skillet or, if you prefer, a deep fryer.
1-1/2 lbs. catfish filets, cut into strips
1 cup buttermilk
3-4 jalapeño peppers
1-1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1/2 Tbsp. onion salt
1 Tbsp. steak seasoning
In a medium bowl, beat egg and buttermilk together. Place catfish strips in buttermilk mixture. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator about 45 minutes. Using a resealable plastic bag, mix cornmeal, onion salt and steak seasoning. Drain catfish strips and place in the bag to coat with the cornmeal mixture.
Heat enough oil to cover the catfish strips in a large, cast iron skillet or pot over medium heat. Add jalapeño peppers to the oil. Catfish is done when strips float and are golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Makes 4 servings.
Baked Catfish with Pecan Crust
This is a very good, quick and easy dish. Any firm, white-fleshed fish can be substituted for the catfish.
4 catfish fillets, about 6 oz. each
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup pecans
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 Tbsps. butter, melted
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. dill weed
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley
Lemon wedges for garnish
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Place fish in dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Finely chop the pecans. In a medium bowl, mix the pecans with the breadcrumbs. Then, add the butter, mustard, cheese, dill and parsley and mix well. Coat each filet with the pecan mixture. Place filets in baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Bake until fish is done, about 15 minutes, or until it flakes easily with a fork. For additional browning, place under broiler for a couple minutes. Serve immediately with lemon wedges. Makes 4 servings.
Carolina Catfish Sandwich
1-1/2 Tbsp. yellow cornmeal (not self-rising or cornmeal mix)
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. Cajun seasoning
2 (6 oz.) catfish fillets
1-1/2 tsps. butter
1-1/2 cups packaged cabbage-and-carrot coleslaw
2 Tbsps. coleslaw dressing (prepared or your favorite recipe)
2 French bread sandwich rolls
Combine cornmeal, flour and seasoning in a shallow dish; dredge catfish fillets in mixture. Melt butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fillets and cook about 4-5 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Remove fillets from skillet and set aside; keep warm.
In a large bowl, combine the coleslaw and dressing; stir well. Cut rolls in half horizontally and place half of the slaw mixture on the bottom half of each roll. Place filets on top of slaw. Makes 2 servings.
Baked Sweet Potatoes and Apples with Pecan Butter
1/3-cup chopped pecans
2 Tbsps. orange juice
1 Tbsp. stone-ground mustard
1 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. freshly grated orange peel
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground red pepper flakes
1-1/2 lbs. orange sweet potatoes, peeled, sliced 1/2-inch
3 small cooking apples, sliced horizontally 1/2-inch, seeds removed
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter in 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Add chopped pecans, orange juice, mustard, honey, orange peel, salt and pepper flakes and stir to combine.
Place sliced sweet potatoes in the butter mixture; toss to coat. Cover and bake for 25 minutes. Remove and add apples; spoon butter mixture over the apples. Cover and return to the oven and continue baking another 15 minutes or until sweet potatoes and apples are tender. Makes 6 servings.