When I moved to Arkansas from San Diego — I know, odd choice — I soon found that well-priced fresh fish were almost non-existent. Sure it was available “freshly” frozen or at a price far north of $15 a pound but even those choices were extremely limited in this landlocked state — unless you were looking for catfish.
Did you know Arkansas is one of the top producers of catfish? Neither did I until moving here. Fish fries and all-you-can-eat buffets practically litter the roads. Even one popular upscale restaurant with a renowned chef features the bottom feeder on its menu. They of course call it Mississippi Sole to keep you guessing.
It may not have a high-class reputation, but catfish is very versatile. The texture is firm, the meat is not too oily and the flavor is quite mild making it ideal in almost any fish dish.
I came up with this quick recipe through trial and error and it has become one of the go-to weekday meals. It is fancy enough to serve to guests as well. Any mild white fish will work in this recipe. If you can’t find capers packed in salt use the type packed in brine but try and strain the liquid first. The shallot and shitake mushrooms can be substituted with red onion and any type of mushrooms you like.
Cornmeal Crusted Catfish with Lemon Caper Sauce
- 3 whole catfish
- 1 cup cornmeal
- ½ cup flour
- 1 egg
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh sage
- ¼ cup grated Romano
Fillet catfish. Remove the tenders and chop fine, set them aside for the sauce. In one bowl crack egg and whisk with wine. In another bowl mix flour with salt and pepper to taste. In a third bowl mix cornmeal, sage, parsley, Romano, salt and pepper. Take each catfish fillet and dredge in flour. Let the fillets sit for five minutes. Melt a tablespoon of butter sprinkled with olive oil in a frying pan big enough to hold all fish in one layer. Once the fish begins to absorb the flour, dunk in egg bath and then dredge in cornmeal mixture. Quickly place in frying pan and repeat with the other fillets. Cook on medium high until fish is cooked, about 2-3 minutes per side. Place on a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp capers packed in salt
- 1 shallot minced
- 2 shitake mushrooms sliced paper thin
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup dry white wine
Melt butter in frying pan over medium heat. Add shallot and sauté until softened. Add mushrooms and brown. Add fish tenders and sear. Add capers and lemon juice. Turn heat to high and cook until lemon juice is reduced by half. Add wine and deglaze pan. Cook until reduced in half. Serve over fish.