catfish recipes

Fried Catfish

Fried Catfish

I love fried fish. I don’t make it at home that often. It is more of a treat around here than an every day meal. This time of year, Friday night fish fries are very popular. I love them. You don’t have to go out to have great fried fish.

I toyed with the idea of baking it, but frying won out. Nothing quite as good as fried catfish in my mind. Had a few friends over and I knew they would like it. too.

This is going to be one of those recipes that is more narrative that exact amounts. I really am good about writing stuff out. I just can’t seem to locate my notes for this one- so I’ll share what I did as best I can remember. It is also so easy to fry fish. Don’t be scared to try.

I started with catfish fillets that were cut down into smaller pieces. The smaller size made them fast and easy to cook. It also made them fun to eat. Like chicken nuggets, only made with catfish. You could certainly use other fish in this recipe.

Since they had been frozen, I thawed them out, and dried them off a bit by patting them with paper towels. I started with a 2 pound bag of catfish. I seasoned a little over 1/2 a cup of flour with salt, pepper and paprika. Then I placed the flour in a bag and tossed in the fish pieces.

I made a mixture of 2 eggs, a little mayo, salt, pepper, garlic powder and a small amount of smoked paprika. I dipped the fish in this mixture and let it soak in there while I put the breadcrumbs in a bowl.

I took the catfish out of the egg wash a few pieces at a time and dropped them in the bread crumbs. I had the crumbs in a good sized bowl- but only filled about a quarter of the way with crumbs. I started with a cup of bread crumbs, but needed more. I added the fish and sort of tossed it in the crumbs by shaking and tossing the bowl. Made sure the fish all got coated. Pressed the crumbs a few times to make sure the breading stuck. Placed fish in a square container and kept adding it as I finished breaded the fish. Covered the dish and placed it in the fridge. I fried the catfish the next day. I could have fried it right away, but I knew I would be getting home just before my guests would be arriving. I wanted to get this part of the job out of the way. Breading sticks better if you do it a little ahead of time.

Once it was time for dinner, I put the oil on to heat up.

I was using an electric pot with a thermometer so I knew when the oil reached 350. I wanted to fry the fish between 350 and 375 degrees. If you don’t have a pot with a thermometer, you can tell if your oil has reached 350 degrees with the use of popcorn. Yes, popcorn. Just put in a kernel or two of unpopped popcorn when you start heating up the oil. Popcorn pops at 350 degrees. When the popcorn pops, you know the oil is ready.

I started to drop the pieces of fish, several at a time, into the hot oil. They were cooked in just a few minutes. I pulled them when they were golden brown. I set them to drain on paper towels, then held in a warm oven, while I cooked the rest of the fish.

I served the fish with lemon wedges and homemade tartar sauce- which is just sweet pickle relish, mayo and capers.

The fish was a big hit.

As to the oil. You’ll have plenty left over. I let it cool and strained it out. Then I poured it in the bottle it came from. You can save it for your next frying project, but don’t use it again and again. Just a couple of times, then toss the rest. There were 4 of us for dinner and there was fish leftover. The 2 pounds of fish was easily enough to serve 6-8.

Catfish Dumplings

Catfish Dumplings in Soup

Fish dumplings are kind of like meat balls, but made with fish. Still, they are different, and it is the texture that makes them so special. I had eaten fish balls at Asian restaurants and always loved them. I was curious as to how they were made. I made them and because of the tender final product, thought of them as more of a dumpling. Since I was making other dumplings with friends yesterday, I made these, too.

We added them to simmering stock and served with dipping sauces.

The big difference in making fish dumplings, as opposed to a traditional meat ball, is that the fish is pureed into a smooth paste. Combined with a few other ingredients, the mixture is very soft. More like a batter or dough in feeling and appearance. The fish batter is also mixed for a long time. It helps to give you the smooth final product you want.

Once you make the base, the balls are shaped and simmered until done. The final texture should be smooth and light. Mine are pretty basic, but you can add all sorts of seasonings for different flavors. Different fish will also give you different flavors.

When you read the recipe, it sounds like a lot of work. There is some time in prep, but a lot of that is just letting the mixer do its job. I thought they were well worth the effort. I had plenty for a party, and extra to freeze.

I used catfish and I really loved the flavor.

Catfish Dumplings

2½ lbs. of raw fish – I used catfish

1¾ c. ice water, divided

4 T. sugar

2 T. dry sherry – not cooking sherry

3 t. salt

4 eggs whites

4 T. cornstarch

Place the fish in a blender add ¾ cup ice water and puree until smooth. Remove fish puree to a stand mixer and add the sugar, sherry and salt. Use the paddle attachment and blend the fish mixture on high for 12-15 minutes. Add the egg whites, one at a time, while the mixer is running, during the 15 minute blending time. Now, with the mixer still running add ½ cup of the ice water, then 2 tablespoons of the cornstarch, blending well each time. Add the rest of the water, then the rest of the cornstarch. This should take about 5 minutes. The mixture should look really smooth and kind of silky. Turn off the mixer and place a small spoonful of the mixture in water- to be sure it floats. Now, you are supposed to squeeze small amounts of the mixture through your hand as you make a fist to form into 1- inch balls. I just used a tablespoon to spoon out the mixture, then used wet hands to form into balls. They aren’t going to be perfectly smooth and round, but that is fine. Have a big bowl of cold water standing by. As you make the balls drop them in the water. They will keep their shape and not stick together- they are soft, but should hold together. Once you have all the dough in balls, get a big pot of water just barely simmering. You don’t want the water to boil. Drop about half of the dumplings into the water at a time. Cook until they float, 2-3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool. Now you are ready to go. It makes a big batch, so feel free to freeze some. You can add your fish dumplings to soup, sauté in oil until crisp or warm in broth and serve with dipping sauces.      

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