Catfish can sometimes have an unappealing “muddy” flavor, so to mellow it out, we use a coating of cornmeal and flour spiced up with cayenne pepper and paprika—it gives the fish crunch as well as extra seasoning. Shallow-fry the catfish for a few minutes per side in a cast-iron pan, hit it with a little salt, and serve it with lemon and a rémoulade for dipping.
What to buy: Try to buy farmed catfish, as it gets a “Best Choice” rating from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch list.
If you don’t have cake flour on hand, all-purpose can be used, though the results won’t be quite as crispy.
Special equipment: You’ll need a candy/fat thermometer for this recipe.
- Yield: 4 servings
- Difficulty: Easy
- Total: 40 mins
- Active: 30 mins
- 1/2 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal
- 1/2 cup cake flour
- 2 teaspoons ground cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
- 6 cups vegetable oil
- 2 pounds catfish fillets, cut in half lengthwise
- Lemon wedges, for serving
- Rémoulade (see recipe intro), for serving
- Place the cornmeal, flour, cayenne, paprika, and measured salt and pepper in a shallow dish and whisk to evenly combine.
- Heat the vegetable oil over medium heat in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with several layers of paper towels and fit it with a wire rack; set aside.
- Use a paper towel to blot the fish pieces dry, season them on all sides with salt and pepper, then dredge them in the cornmeal mixture, being sure to cover all sides. Tap the fish pieces lightly to shake off any excess coating.
- Fry the fish in 3 to 4 batches, turning once, until they’re deep golden brown and crisp on the outside with a flaky interior, about 6 minutes total.
- Using a slotted spatula, remove the fish to the prepared baking sheet and immediately season with salt. Serve with lemon wedges and rémoulade.