Kenneth Kieser: Proven recipes to enjoy the catfish you caught
I love fishing for catfish this time of year. Late evening or early mornings are great times to sit and watch lines. Catfish often come to baits through their numerous scent glands.
Catfish, too, are good table fare. Here are some of my favorite catfish recipes:
This catfish soup is similar to a Manhattan clam chowder, but with catfish. The bacon adds flavor, but feel free to use 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil if you're counting calories or cutting down on fat. You can sprinkle purchased bacon bits on individual servings if desired.
Ingredients: 4 slices bacon, diced; 1 large onion, diced; 2 medium carrots, quartered lengthwise then thinly sliced, about 1 cup; 1/2 green pepper, diced, about 1/2 cup; 2 ribs celery, diced; 2 cans (14.5 ounces each) diced tomatoes with juice; 2 bottles (8 ounces each) clam juice; 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth; 3 medium red skinned potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch chunks; 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning; 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme; 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley or 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes; 1 pound catfish fillets, cut into 1-inch chunks; salt and pepper to taste.
Preparation: In a large saucepan, sauté bacon until crisp, and remove to paper towels. Drain off all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings. Add diced onion, carrot, green pepper and celery and sauté until onion is tender and carrot has softened slightly.
Stir in the tomatoes, clam juice and vegetable broth. Add potatoes, Creole seasoning and thyme. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Add the parsley and catfish; continue simmering for about 5 minutes, or until fish is opaque and cooked through. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with the bacon just before serving. Serves 4 to 6.
To cut back on fat and calories, use vegetable oil instead of bacon drippings to sauté the vegetables, and sprinkle individual with purchased real bacon bits, if desired.
Another Fish Chowder
Ingredients: 3 to 4 pounds walleye, catfish or carp fillets; 1 bottle Lawry’s Herb & Garlic Marinade with Lemon Juice; 1 large onion, diced; 6 large potatoes, 1/2-inch cubes; 1 stick butter; 3 to 4 tablespoons cooking oil; 1/4 cup flour; 2 16-ounce bottles clam juice; 2 gallons whole milk; 1-pint heavy cream; garlic powder, seasoned salt and garlic pepper to taste.
Preparation: Cut the fish fillets in quarter-sized pieces and combine fish and Lawry’s Herb & Garlic Marinade with Lemon Juice in a resealing bag. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Sauté onion in oil. Add enough oil to also cook the fish, sprinkling with garlic powder and seasoned salt.
Remove the fish and onions and set aside as soon as they are done. Don’t overcook the fillets or they will fall apart in the chowder. Boil potatoes in water with a dash of seasoned salt until tender, about 20 minutes. Set aside. In a large soup pot, melt butter and be careful not to scorch. Add flour to form a roux. Once the mixture has bubbled for a minute, add clam juice. The mixture will thicken. Add two cups of milk.
When the mixture comes to a boil, add cream and reduce heat. Add remainder of milk until desired consistency is reached. Be careful not to overheat, as the milk will curdle. Add seasoned salt and garlic pepper to taste. Let simmer 15 minutes, then add drained potatoes. Just before serving, add the fish and onion mixture.
Ingredients: Vegetable oil or olive oil; 4 medium catfish fillets; 1 cup cold milk; 1 cup yellow cornmeal; 2 to 3 teaspoons salt; 1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper; 1 teaspoon red (cayenne) pepper.
Preparation: To clean a whole catfish, remove skin from the catfish, then slice the fillet across to a thickness of no more than 1/4 inch. The secret to frying catfish is using thin fillets less than 1/4-inch thick. An hour-long soak in buttermilk washes away the muddy flavor from freshwater fish such as catfish and tilapia.
Rinse the fillets under cold water and dry thoroughly with paper towels. In a pie plate, lay fillets and pour milk over the top. In another pie plate, combine cornmeal, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper.
Remove the fillets one at a time from the milk and roll in the cornmeal mixture to coat evenly; place on a large platter to dry, leaving space between each fillet. Let dry at least 5 minutes.
Heat the oil or butter in a large skillet. Add the coated catfish filets and cook for 5 to 7 minutes on each side, sprinkling additional salt on the catfish after each turn. Cook until golden brown and fish flakes easily with a fork.
Drain on paper towels. After draining, place the fillets on another platter covered with paper towels; place in preheated oven to keep warm while frying the remaining fillets. The fillets will remain hot and crisp for as long as 35 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.
Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at email@example.com.