While many of us eat seafood year round, in New Orleans, seafood “season” begins as soon as Mardi Gras ends. And for us, locals, Fried Catfish is a staple nearly every Friday during Lent season. And, if there is one thing I’ve learned in my 15 years of living in New Orleans, is that every season revolves around food!
While most people have been trying to figure out what they will give up or sacrifice during Lent, here, we are figuring out how we can have the biggest and best catfish fish fry! Yes, when in doubt on a Friday night, drive to your nearest church and you are sure to find some of the finest golden-fried catfish dinner plates. For some schools and churches, the next six weeks of Lent are their biggest fundraisers, (and friend-raisers) where when you walk in, you’ll be treated like family.
There is truly something magical in the South when it comes to food and family. And who would have thought that fried catfish was such a big deal? During Lent and on Fridays, most seafood restaurants will have a minimum 1-hour wait for a table during the lunch and dinner time rush.
A little-known secret is to go to the nearest church or school, where they are serving up a feast (and draft beer) to anyone who is friendly enough to come -and pay.
While I love supporting local schools and churches, I also like to have my catfish fish fry at home, where we can invite friends and family to our home. So, today, I want to share with you the perfect recipe for you to make your very own New Orleans Fried Catfish! This recipe works great with other white fish too, like tilapia, cod, or trout.
Fried Catfish is a treat in my house, as I do not fry often. But being that the South has found a place in my heart, I cannot bypass (my husband’s) traditions.
Some people love thin fried catfish, which is so thin you are eating fried batter with fish flavor; on the other hand, others, like myself, like their fried catfish a little meatier (thicker cut). Regardless of how you slice your fish, a good catfish fry is in the batter, in my opinion.I hope you enjoy this New Orleans Fried Catfish recipe as much as my family does!
New Orleans Fried Catfish Recipe
A homemade version of the traditional Southern dish!
- Yield: 6 servings
- Oil for frying, about 1 quart
- 1 cup finely ground cornmeal
- 1 cup all-purpose flour*
- 1 teaspoon creole seasoning
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 6 catfish fillets, rinsed and patted dry
- 3/4 cup buttermilk*
- Heat oil in a 5-6 quart dutch oven (or fryer) until the temperature reaches 350F, making sure to adjust the heat to maintain the temperature.
- In a shallow dish, big enough for the fish pieces, sift the cornmeal and flour.
- In a small bowl, combine the creole seasoning, salt, smoked paprika, and black pepper. Season catfish on both sides with the seasoning mixture.
- Place buttermilk in a shallow dish.
- Dip each seasoned fish fillet in the buttermilk, flipping it once to coat both sides. Allow excess buttermilk to drip off and move on to cornmeal mixture. Flip the fillet to coat the other side with cornmeal mixture. Transfer to a wire cooling rack while you repeat the process with remaining fillets.
- Gently, add the fillets, 2 at a time, to the hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 6 minutes.
- Remove the fried fillets to a cooling rack while you fry remaining fillets.
- Serve immediatly.
Make this gluten-free by using an all-purpose gluten-free flour. Or, omitting the flour and measuring out 2 cups of very fine cornmeal.
If you don’t keep buttermilk on hand at all times, add 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar to regular milk, and stir to combine.