Recipe A Day #29: Paul Prudhomme-Style Fried Catfish

We're at the end of one of the most aggressive experiments I've done here at Casual Kitchen: 29 brand new recipes, shared daily with readers over the course of the entire month of June.

And today, for our final recipe of my recipe-a-day trial, we're going to feature a chef who has influenced me substantially over the years: Paul Prudhomme, and his exceptional cookbook Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen.

Paul Prudhomme is of course a legend for teaching the world about Louisiana Cajun and Creole cuisine, and we've featured him here at Casual Kitchen a few times over the years: with his palate-searing Cajun Meatloaf, his stunning Barbecued Shrimp, his not-easy-but-still-worth-it Shrimp Creole, and of course his simple and staggeringly good Chocolate Mousse.

And today's recipe is one of my favorites. It's easy, and it has all the exciting flavors and spices that you'd expect from Paul Prudhomme. It'll be one of your favorites too, I'm sure of it.

Paul Prudhomme-Style Fried Catfish

2.5 pounds catfish filets, frozen or fresh
Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying

Spice mix: Combine well:
1 Tablespoon salt
1 Tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 Tablespoon paprika
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1 Tablepoon black pepper
1½ teaspoons onion powder
1½ teaspoons oregano
1½ teaspoons thyme

Dredge pans:
Dredge pan #1: 1 cup flour plus 1½ teaspoons seasoning mix above, combined well.
Dredge pan #2: 2 eggs, 1 cup milk, and ¼ cup mustard, whisked/combined well.
Dredge pan #3: 2 cups flour, 1.5 cups cornmeal, plus 2 generous Tablespoons of the seasoning mix above, combined well.

1) Prepare dredge pans according to instructions above, using three small loaf pans or pie pans.

2) Use remaining seasoning mix to liberally season both sides of each of the fish filets, then cut catfish filets into nugget-sized pieces, about 2-3 inches long and 1 inch wide.

3) Pour oil in a large pan so you have enough to be about 3 inches deep. Heat oil to around 300F or until smoking just slightly. Meanwhile, set up an assembly line with the fish, the three dredging pans and the frying oil (see photo below).

4) Dredge the fish pieces first in Dredge pan #1, next in Dredge pan #2 (the egg mixture), and then, finally, in Dredge pan #3 (flour/cornmeal mixture), making sure you really press the flour/cornmeal mixture firmly into the fish with your fingers or a spoon. Fry the fish in batches of five or six pieces at a time, until golden brown and crispy. Place on paper towels to drain, and serve with a side of vegetables, Lemon-Lime Quinoa, or Savory Blueberry Rice.

Serves 5-6.
Recipe Notes:
1) Easier than it looks: This recipe at first seems complicated, but it really isn't. There's just a little bit of arrangement involved in setting up your fish dredging/frying assembly line, but other than that this recipe is shockingly easy.

2) Intimidated by fish? I've said elsewhere, probably repeatedly, that I'm often intimidated cooking fish. I cook it for too long, I don't cook it long enough, and because it's a relatively costly food, I feel, I don't know, like a wasteful moron when it doesn't come out perfectly. If you feel the same, do not fear this recipe. I promise you: it's almost impossible to screw up. The fish nuggets have very wide tolerances for cooking time. You'll know when the breading becomes a luscious golden brown that the fish inside is done--and done perfectly.

3) Thoughts on scale: When I cook here at Casual Kitchen, I usually cook for just the two of us. This recipe, with a generous side of Savory Blueberry Brown Rice, (over)fed us for two dinners plus two lunches for Laura to take to work. However, a minor problem with this recipe--a problem common to any recipe where you bread and fry something--is that the breading gets soggy the next day. If you're cooking for two, make the recipe as it is above, but save back half of the fish filets for day two and fry them then. And then, for a time- and effort-saving tip, put the breading/dredging materials into plastic storage containers--just put a lid on each container and stack it in your fridge for re-use with the rest of the fish the following day. And, let the oil cool on your stove and you can re-use that too!

4) Save the spice mix and egg mixture: When you're done with this recipe you'll have some leftover spice mix and some leftover egg mixture. Do not throw them away!! Save the spice mix for other dishes: I sprinkle it over my morning eggs for example, and to mess with Laura's head, once in a while I'll put a generous shake or two of Paul Prudhomme onto her oatmeal. Also, a suggestion for any leftover egg mixture from Dredge pan #2: add a couple of Tablespoons of it to your next batch of scrambled eggs for a delicious taste experience. PS: You can also freeze the egg mixture.

5) This is the end: Finally, readers, I hope you enjoyed my June Recipe A Day experiment, and thank you for coming along for the ride with me. It was hard work, but very much worth it: Laura and I ate really well last month, and we've got quite a few new recipes that we'll likely add to our cooking rotation. I hope you got some new recipes out of it too! I'll put together an archive post and a summary post with the best and most popular recipes in the coming weeks.

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Anonymous said...

Sounds delicious! Catfish is difficult to find where I live, though, is there any other type of fish you'd recommend this recipe with?

Daniel said...

Good question. You could easily use any mild white fish in this recipe. Enjoy!