Catfish Preparation and Cooking

Catfish represent a very diverse group of bony fish that are so named because of the prominent whisker-like appendages near their mouths, which are called barbels. These have nothing to do with exercising biceps or triceps, although not all members of the catfish family have them. Catfish come in many sizes and shapes and some are big enough to be considered “sporting fish.” The sweet mild flesh makes them very desirable and important as a food fish throughout the world. Extremely popular in the American Deep South, the state of Mississippi is the largest domestic producer of catfish in North America.

How To Buy and Prepare Catfish

Two types of catfish, namely the channel catfish and blue catfish are plentiful in the waterways of the southern regions of the United States. Fresh catfish ALWAYS smells fresh, like clean river water. The eyes should be bright and clear and the gills clean. Remove the skin before cooking (or better yet, buy fillets so you don’t have to do the job). Preparation is usually fried and cornmeal is, generally speaking, the most popular type of breading. To cook catfish successfully means that it must not be overcooked. You can tell that the fish is ready to eat when the flesh becomes opaque and can easily be pierced with a fork.

Availability of Catfish

Although there are more than 2,000 species of catfish, the most common found in the marketplace are the native channel catfish. They are available in many forms: fresh, frozen, whole, filleted or in nuggets of meat cut from the belly. They are easy to farm in warmer climates, a fact which has increased their popularity in the United States as food.

Fast “Fried” Catfish

This is a simple way to prepare and enjoy catfish that comes from Oprah Winfrey’s former chef, Rosie Daley and their book, In The Kitchen With Rosie: Oprah’s Favorite Recipes (Alfred A Knopf, New York, 1994). Cornmeal is the key ingredient here and it makes a delicious difference! You will swear this fish is fried, but it isn’t.

Enjoy!

1-cup cornmeal
1-teaspoon salt
teaspoon black pepper
teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 catfish fillets (1/2 pound each)
cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
Vegetable oil, enough to cover 12-inch skillet at inch deep

1. Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until hot but not smoking.
2. Combine cornmeal, salt and peppers. Dredge catfish in flour and then dip in egg mixture. Coat the fish with cornmeal mixture.
3. Fry 2 fish at a time until golden, about 6 minutes on each side. Keep catfish warm in a 275-degree oven.

Serves 4

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