Good catfish should have a mild flavor, but go ahead and give your fillets a bath in whole milk or buttermilk before frying to help neutralize any fishy odors. To ensure even cooking, choose fillets that are thick and meaty from end to end. Whether frying or baking catfish, the meal won’t be complete without your favorite side dishes.
6 (4-oz.) Delacata catfish fillets
1 cup whole milk or buttermilk
3/4 cup fine yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
Lemon wedges, for serving
Black-Eyed Pea Ranchero Sauce, for serving
How to Make It
Preheat oven to 200°F. Pour enough peanut oil into a large, heavy frying pan to come 1⁄2 inch up sides. (Cast iron is best.) Heat over medium-high until oil reaches 350°F. (A good test is to flick a little of the dry breading into the oil. If it sizzles at once, you’re good to go.)
While oil is heating, soak catfish in milk 5 minutes. Set a wire rack inside a large rimmed baking sheet, and place in preheated oven
Combine cornmeal, flour, garlic powder, black pepper, thyme, paprika, cayenne, celery seeds, and 1 teaspoon of the salt in a shallow dish for dredging. (Or you can substitute your favorite seasoning instead.)
Once the oil is hot, remove catfish fillets from milk, and dredge in flour mixture, shaking off excess. Working in 2 batches, carefully place fillets in hot oil, and fry until golden brown and cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Sprinkle remaining salt (about 1⁄2 teaspoon per batch) on fish when it comes out of the pan.
Transfer cooked catfish to wire rack in baking sheet in preheated oven. Serve catfish with lemon wedges and Black-Eyed Pea Ranchero Sauce.