Monday, March 23, 2009

Southern Fried Catfish

Deep fried, crispy strips of catfish, coated in a mixture of corn meal and flour, are a true deep south favorite.
Deep fried, crispy strips of catfish, coated in a mixture of corn meal and flour, are a true deep south favorite.

Southern Fried Catfish

Fried catfish is a common dinner in the south, especially during Lent, but we southerners love it anytime, really.

There are catfish houses everywhere down south, where catfish is often all you can eat, coleslaw, hush puppies, and homemade buttermilk biscuits with jelly or honey are served family style, and sweet tea comes most often in Mason jars or icy tin cups, alongside local favorites like fried dill pickles, turnip greens, fried okra, squash casserole, and fried green tomatoes.

One of our favorite local spots for fried catfish on Friday is Pleasant's BBQ, a family-owned place that's been around for years and where they serve some pretty rocking BBQ but the special on Friday is always fried catfish. I am convinced he uses some of his rub in the coating, so I've tried it and indeed, it rocks!

Aunt Jenny's also in Ocean Springs, and also family-owned, where not only is the food delicious but it comes served in the midst of some gorgeous and very old oak trees and a simply beautiful view across the bayou off of Biloxi Bay has excellent catfish. In Gulfport, Catfish Charlie's is also family owned, excellent and has been around forever. All delicious options!

Did you know that 75% of the world's supply of farm-raised catfish comes from right here in my home state of Mississippi, making us first in total U.S. catfish production?

Humphreys-Belzoni, Mississippi claims the title of Catfish Capital of the World, has 117 catfish farms and more than 35,000 acres of farm-raised catfish, making it more than any other single county in all of the United States. In fact, Humphreys-Belzoni, hosts a huge World Catfish Festival every April, drawing crowds upwards of 20,000 to the Delta.

Now for me, my fried shrimp is coated in flour. Self-rising flour. Period.

My fried oysters are coated only in corn meal. Yellow corn meal. Period.

But my catfish is coated in a mixture of the two, mostly cornmeal, a little flour. That's the rules and the only way to eat any of the above three at least for me. This is not to say that my way is the right, or the only way. It's just my way!

When I fry catfish like this, I also prefer to cook the catfish in smaller strips rather than cooking them as large whole fillets, like I would cook when I pan fry. What that involves is that if you had a whole catfish and you filleted that into two halves, I would split those halves into multiple strips, cutting along the natural "seams" of the filet. I love the way the smaller pieces curl up in the fryer - to me, that's fried catfish!

The best way to cook fried catfish, in my opinion, is to deep fry them, whether that's in a large pot filled with oil on the stove, or a deep fryer. It cooks the catfish fast, and keeps them nice and crispy, the way that they are intended to be eaten.

I've mentioned before, I do not do greasy, and that is why I love using a deep fryer. I upgraded my fryer to a TFal fryer which has an easy draining feature and a built-in oil storage that can be removed and refrigerated between frying. Since we don't use our fryer that often, I really love this feature!

Check out more of my favorite fish recipes on Pinterest!

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Posted by on March 23, 2009

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