Cornmeal-Crusted Catfish

I recently downloaded the Monterey Bay Aquarium app for my iPhone. It’s a great way for those of us who want to buy sustainable seafood to know what’s ok and what’s not. Only a few fish get the designation “Best Choice”–most fish, like monkfish, cod, flounder, and skate are to be avoided, and other fish like haddock, hake, and pollock are “Good Alternatives”–but “Best Choice”? That’s an exclusive designation. And I was surprised to see, while checking the app at Citarella, that catfish–which is actually pretty cheap–is a “Best Choice” fish.

Each filet was approximately $5 and catfish filets are huge.


So, as you can see, I bought three (we were having our friend Morgan over for dinner; Morgan is happy that he has his own tag on this site now; I wonder how many bloggers consider it a friendship milestone when they create a tag for their friends?) and along with some rice and lemon and a cherry cobbler for dessert, I knew this’d be a pleasant, summery weeknight dinner.

I decided to play around with a recipe I found on Here’s what you do:

In a glass baking dish, combine 1 cup whole milk and 1 large egg. In another dish (I used pie pans for this) combine 1 cup cornmeal, 2 tablespoons all purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I ran out of cayenne and only used 1/4 teaspoon which wasn’t nearly spicy enough! But we like our catfish spicy):


Once you do that, everything’s pretty easy peasy. Take each filet, dip in the egg mixture, then the dry mixture and place on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil or waxed paper. Some people might say you can season the filet and the liquid mixture too for extra flavor; I didn’t do that but if I did it again, I might. Once you’ve dipped and coated everything, you can keep it on the sheet, covered in plastic, in the fridge until you’re ready to fry:


As for frying, this is a very simple process. Just coat the bottom of your pans (I used two) with canola oil and turn up the heat to medium. You’ll know it’s ready for frying when you stick the back of a wooden spoon into the oil and bubbles form all around it (thanks, Arthur Schwartz, for that tip). Carefully lower the fish into the oil and cook for 4 minutes on each side:



Here’s what it looks like when you flip it over. Isn’t that a great color?


After 3 minutes or so, cut into the middle to see if it’s done. And that’s it! You’re ready to serve. Look at the happy customer:


As you saw at the top of the post, I kept it simple with rice and lemon but you could probably make some kind of piquant sauce to go with this. And when you’re done you can pat yourself on the back because you served something sustainable; just don’t serve it on styrofoam plates or you’ll negate all the good work you’ve done.

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This post is part of a Seafood Celebration series, which is sponsored by Red Lobster. Check out their new American Seafood menu at and discover regionally inspired seafood creations starting at $12.99.

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