Most people hear catfish and immediately have New Orleans on their heart. A po’ boy dancing in their brain, with remoulade, in a baguette that had it’s soft flesh pulled out to make room for a big heaping scoop of coldslaw and a deeply fried crispy piece of fish. And if you didn’t have that on your mind before, you do now. Because I do, and damn it I may need to make a po’ boy now too. For me though catfish brings back memories of Friday nights growing up. I would always ask my mom to whip up filets of catfish which she would do gladly. Paired with creamed corn and a massive salad or sometimes fries. It was one of my favorite meals as a kid.
Years later, that simple meal is still something that brings me joy.
I have found a variety of ways to serve it to my own family from time to time, relishing in fish Friday’s, an age old tradition that many Black families continue to enjoy. There are few things better than fish battered and fried. Delicate on the inside with a snap in every bite. I decided to whip up this sandwich that marries the po’ boys from my NOLA travels and the simplicity of Friday nights at my mommy’s.
Some people have asked about whether you use corn meal or flour to fry fish. To be honest I use a mixture of each. Usually rice flour to ensure that the batter is light and certainly crunchy mixed with corn meal, for its flavor and gritty texture. With a delicate fish like catfish or tilapia you need something that won’t fall apart when it hits the hot oil. For me corn meal alone isn’t enough and flour on its own doesn’t provide the texture that I look for.
Another thing that people tend to ignore or forget when they’re making fried food is to season the actual protein. It sounds crazy right? How could you possibly skip the step where you season the food AND the batter? Don’t ask me, but trust that it happens more than it should. That said please ensure that you season not only your fish but also your flour/corn meal mixture. No bland food! I rebuke it. This particular recipe won’t be hard because it’s simply just repeating the dry seasonings twice.
If you’re wondering what oil would be best for this or pan? I typically use canola or vegetable oil. Those are the oils I use for frying because they have a high smoke point. Meaning they get hot enough to fry well and don’t leave behind their own flavor the way peanut oil, which is great for frying, would. You can also go old school and use crisco or some other form of shortening.
The most important thing outside of the meat in any sandwich is the bread. There’s nothing worse than going in for the first bite and the bread on your sandwich falls apart. Or worse is so dry you can barely chew. Bread is critical for sandwiches around here. I will judge you if the bread is bad, okay? For this fried catfish sandwich I used a brioche that I get from Sprouts. Baked fresh in their bakery it is great quality, buttery, with a hint of sweetness, that takes this sandwich across the finish line.
You could also use a ciabatta bread or a soft french baguette. The later would take it into that po’ boy place that we were reminiscing over early. The ciabatta will stand up to heavier sauces or more additions like pickles, tomatoes, or onions if you want to add that. The flavor of the herbs and the fish were enough for me. Some times the cleaner the dish the better.
Before I send you off to whip up your own fried catfish sandwich I just want to say thank you to my readers for pushing me and asking relentlessly for me to bring my recipes to The Hautemommie. Strangely I held off on doing this, thinking I wouldn’t be able to successfully make it look great. Turns out imposter syndrome doesn’t take any days off – even in a pandemic. Nonetheless, we’re here now! So save the recipe, follow me on IG where I may be making some of my dishes, and let me know how yours turns out.
Photography: Kaye McCoy
Perfect for a Saturday lunch or maybe for your own Fish Friday! Bon appetit!