I have a long and storied relationship with fried catfish.
Growing up in the Cumberland Highlands region of Kentucky affords one the opportunity to eat lots of fried catfish.
While the honor of being the official state fish belongs to the spotted bass, it’s far more common to find catfish on menus across the state.
One of the great meals of my life came at the early age of ten years. A restaurant opened in Williamsburg, Kentucky called The Brass Pot and on Friday nights they offered a catfish buffet. Southeastern Kentucky is not known for restaurant dining. Other than a few good spots to get a chili bun, the area is bereft of good eating options.
Except for the Brass Pot.
Long since shuttered, it’s heyday was a strong one. The art of frying properly was not lost on the folks in charge of the kitchen. The catfish came out crisp, moist and perfectly seasoned. As an added bonus it was brought forth from the kitchen in giant, steel tubs which were then placed on a steam line where you could eat as much as you liked.
I liked alot.
During that same era my family began making pilgrimages to New Orleans where I first encountered the art of fried catfish po boys. I’ve been back dozens of times since my childhood and know the whys and wherefores of the bustling po boy scene across the Crescent City.
This recipe is my homage to the great city of New Orleans and the art of the fried catfish po boy.
1 c. Meal, corn, white or yellow, fine ground
1 T. Mustard, dry, prepared
1 T. Salt, Kosher or Sea
2 T. Pepper, Black, ground
2 t. Paprika, Hungarian, sweet and mild
1 t. Cayenne, ground
Optional [ 1 t. Old Bay Seasoning blend, some folks like it, some don’t, as a general rule the further north I am when I’m cooking the more likely I am to utilize it]
1.5 c. Buttermilk
2 lbs Catfish, Cut into planks, Swai is the alternate fish of choice aka Vietnamese catfish
* Soak catfish is buttermilk in fridge for 2 hours
* Heat big cast iron with peanut oil to 360 degrees
* Combine corn meal with seasonings, blend thoroughly
* Drain off buttermilk by placing catfish in colander
* Dredge catfish planks in corn meal
* Carefully place in hot oil
* Cook approximately 2 minutes per side or til golden brown
* Remove and place on platter lined with paper towels
Method Part 2
* Split po boy loaves and spread with butter
* Broil in oven til nicely browned
* Dress with remoulade,
* Place hot fried catfish on loaves
* Dress with lettuce, tomato and pickle
Voila! You now have a New Orleans classic meal.
The perfect side dish for this po boy is a bag of Zapps potato chips although older readers may remember the brand Dickeys from their youth, Dickeys has long since shuttered.
A Hubigs’ pie for dessert would be a most classic conclusion to this repast.
Big bonus points for washing the whole affair down with New Orleans own Barq’s Root Beer.
Of course the Hubig’s pie would pair nicely with cafe au lait made with chicory.
My top two restaurants in New Orleans for this meal are Parkway Bakery and Tavern and Domilise’s.
Please be aware that Domilises has decided that a good slathering of red corn syrup [ketchup] is appropriate for this delicacy, make the counter person aware that this is not acceptable when you order or your meal will be rendered inedible.