Catfish are one of the most under-fished and abundant species in Washington waters, but what many don’t realize is just how fun catching and eating these whiskered creatures can be.
Seattle chef and restaurateur Tom Douglas is a contributor of some of his tasty cooking advice and recipes for the Reel Time Fishing NW blog in our Catch of the Week each Wednesday through October. Catch of the Day will also include recipes from other local chefs, tackle shop owners and fish-market owners.
Douglas is owner of Lola, Palace Kitchen, Dahlia Lounge, Dahlia Bakery, Etta’s, Serious Pie Downtown, Seatown, Brave Horse Tavern, Cuoco, Serious Biscuit and Serious Pie Westlake. Another new Douglas restaurant that just opened is Tanaka San at the Via6 Apartment Complex in downtown Seattle.
Here are some suggestions by Chef Tom Douglas on how to serve catfish:
Catfish has a nice firm texture and mild flavor. Most of the catfish you find at the fish counter has been farmed. Though I usually prefer to buy and eat wild fish, farmed catfish taste cleaner, without the muddy taste of their wild relatives.
One of my favorite catfish recipes is Mr. Joe’s Tomato Gravy Catfish with Smoky Bacon and Fried Artichokes. I came up with this recipe after musing on memories of my neighbor Mr. Joe Reuschling in Newark Delaware where I grew up. Sometimes Mr. Joe would have my family over on weekends and serve us toast smothered with a gravy he made from bacon grease and canned tomato sauce and plenty of Tabasco.
Starting off with the idea of that “gravy,” I rubbed the catfish with spice rub and pan seared it. Then the Tabasco spiked tomato gravy was ladled on to the plate, the seared fish placed over that, and the whole thing topped with spicy fried artichokes for a satisfying combo of soft, spicy-hot, and crunchy. You can find the recipe in Tom Douglas’ Seattle Kitchen.
Besides pan searing, the firm texture of catfish also takes well to grilling, braising or deep-frying. If deep frying catfish, try a dredge of seasoned flour and cornmeal and add some bacon fat to the oil. Catfish’s mild taste adapts well to a wide array of flavors, especially strong assertive ones, which is why you used to see it “blackened” Cajun style on so many restaurant menus- a trick which soon became a tired cliché.
Instead, try braising catfish in a fragrant Thai yellow curry sauce and serve with steamed rice.