Catfish – love it or hate it by Saul G.

19 09 2008

Catfish you either love it or hate it.  While through much of the US fried catfish is revered it does not seem to make it on many fine dining menus. 

Basa from Vietnam was, until recently, sold as catfish in US markets but due to pressure from the domestic catfish industry it is now sold as basa. 

Farm raised catfish in the US is raised in stagnant ponds and has a noticeable off flavor from the algae where the majority of basa is raised in  the Mekong river which is fast flowing providing for a cleaner tasting fish.

Wild caught catfish is by far my favorite and fun to catch.  A friend of mine taught me to take the live catfish and put them in an ice chest filled with ice and water, changing the water every couple of hours and adding ice to keep the water cold.  This firms up the flesh and also cleans the mud and algae tastes from them. They do need to be alive through this process to make it work.

If the catfish is large enough filleting it is a great option but for smaller, less than  a pound I find frying whole catfish, after eviscerating and skinning of course, to be a good method.  Either pan frying after dredging in flour, salt and pepper or using a batter made with corn meal and deep frying catfish they come out wonderful. 

The following recipe from the Palace Café in New Orleans is great.

Catfish Filets:

  • 6 catfish filets, 5 to 7 ounces each
  • 3 cups roasted pecans
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1 cup seasoned flour (season with salt, black and red peppers)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Creole seasoning blend
  • Olive oil
  • Chopped parsley

Meuniere Sauce:

  • 3 lemons, peeled and quartered
  • 7 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tablespoons Crystal hot sauce
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (UK: single cream)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Preparing the meuniere sauce: In a large sauté pan combine the lemons, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce and whipping cream. Blend with a wire whisk over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 3-4 minutes. As you stir, press gently on the lemon quarters to slowly release the juices. Slowly add the butter by pinching off a little bit at a time and squeezing it through your fingers into the sauce pan, stirring constantly (this is called mounting the butter). As you add the last of the butter, remove from heat and continue to stir. Taste, then season with salt and pepper. Strain through a fine strainer. The sauce is now ready to serve; cover and keep warm.

Preparing the catfish filets: Trim the fat and any rough edges off the catfish filets. Lightly season with Creole seasoning; place in refrigerator.

Grind 2-1/2 cups of the pecans and the bread crumbs together in a food processor. Place in a shallow pan or plate and set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, make an egg wash by combining the 3 beaten eggs and 1/2 cup of milk. Set up a standard breading station on your table or counter top. Bread filets by first coating them with the seasoned flour, then placing each in the egg wash and then finally pressing each into the ground pecan/bread crumb mixture, making sure the entire filet is coated well. Refrigerate if you’re unable to fry them immediately.

Using a large skillet or sauté pan, cover the bottom with olive oil, and heat. Gently place the fish into the hot oil. Cook until lightly brown, turn fish and repeat. If fish isn’t cooked all the way through, place in a shallow baking pan in a 450°F oven for about 5 minutes.

To serve: Place one filet on the plate, drizzle with meuniere sauce, and top with the rest of the roasted pecans, and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve with white rice and your favorite sautéed or steamed vegetables.

While the farm raising of catfish in the US is controversial as to the environmental impact the catfish raised in the rivers of Asia are much preferred in my opinion but there is still nothing compared to an early morning or late night out fishing, catching and cleaning it yourself.  The feeling of serving what I caught to those that really appreciate it is amazing.  Let’s go fishing!




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