Crispy, crunchy battered and fried catfish mixed with Cajun spices and served with a delicious homemade tartar sauce and fries. Fish & Chips the Southern way!
Catfish have gotta be some of the ugliest fish to swim earth’s waters. With broad, flat heads, long spindly whiskers called “barbels”, and weird serrated spines, they’re definitely not regular contestants of the Annual World Fish Beauty Contest, if you know what I mean. Unlike other “normal” fish with scales, catfish have none. They breathe through their skin and, yes, even use their bladder as an emergency air bag to gulp in air at surface level. They hang out in the sludgy mud at the bottom and feed at night using their barbels to “feel” for food, eating anything they can get their catfish mouths around. And yet they’re one of the most popular types of fish around, enjoying a passionately loyal following across the globe from Africa to Asia to North America…even in Hungary where catfish is commonly prepared in paprika sauce – of course! In America they had become such a staple food that Ronald Reagan declared June 25th “National Catfish Day.”
As Bob Wiley (aka Bill Murray) once summed it up: “There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who like Neil Diamond and those who don’t.” And so I’ll say of catfish: You either love ’em or you hate ’em. My husband loves ’em.
As for me, I’ll take Neil over catfish any day.
So it’s for my husband, Todd, that I made this dish. Having lived in England and Wales for a couple of years as a young man, he absolutely loves traditional fish and chips. I thought I’d combine his love for the British version with his appreciation for catfish and present him with some Southern-style Cajun Catfish and Chips with a tasty tartar sauce to go with it. He gave it two thumbs up.
The batter is perfectly crispy from the cornmeal with a great Cajun flavor while the fish remains nice and moist inside. If you like heat, add some cayenne pepper to the seasonings and/or Tabasco sauce to the buttermilk mixture for some added catfish kick.
So for all you catfish lovers out there, this is for you!
- 1½ pounds catfish nuggets
- 1 cup plain all-purpose flour
- 1 cup fine cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1½ teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs
- ¼ cup buttermilk
- For the Tartar Sauce:
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1½ tablespoons sweet pickle relish
- 1 tablespoon finely minced onion
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1½ teaspoons fresh dill, chopped
- French fries, prepared according to package instructions
- Make the tartar sauce in advance: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
- Pat the catfish nuggets dry.
- Mix the cornmeal and seasonings in a shallow dish. Place the flour in a separate bowl. Whisk the eggs and buttermilk in a separate bowl.
- Heat a skillet filled about ½ an inch with corn oil over medium-high heat. Place a drop of water in it, when it sizzles you're ready to cook (the temperature should be around 365 degrees F).
- While the oil is heating, dredge the fish in the flour, then the egg, and then the corn meal mixture, shaking off any excess.
- Once the oil is hot, place the coated catfish in the skillet without over-crowding. Fry on both sides until medium golden brown, about 3 minutes each.
- Remove catfish from the skillet and place in a 200 F oven to keep warm while the rest of the catfish is fried.
- Serve the catfish immediately with the chips and tartar sauce.