Coast Cooking

These aren’t the muddy, bottom-feeding catfish of the past

Deep fried catfish with slaw is the most popular presentation of this Southern delicacy.
Deep fried catfish with slaw is the most popular presentation of this Southern delicacy. Special to the Sun Herald

Just mention American farm-raised catfish and many a misinformed foodie will sneer.

My guess is that the old tales of muddy-tasting, wild-caught, bottom-feeding catfish have affected their view of this Southern favorite.

But today catfish farmers go to extremes to produce firm, flavorful catfish that don’t taste anything like the bottom of a muddy pond or stream.

Now days, catfish farmers feed the catfish high-quality feed that floats to keep them from scavenging the bottom of the ponds.

I visited Simmons Catfish Company in the Mississippi Delta not too long ago and I was impressed by the operation.

What impressed me the most was the method they use for selecting fish to process: they take a sample and cook it. Simmons Catfish may be hard to find down here, but if you ever get the chance, try it.

The simplest and perhaps most popular way to serve catfish is to fry it.

Use a commercial fish fry if you like, or season your own cornmeal, dip it in egg and milk wash or just use seasoned flour.

I prefer Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning, along with some freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes.

Do not overcook catfish or any seafood —1-2 minutes in hot oil is all it takes.

Check out this blog all week for more on catfish.

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