Had a hankering for fried catfish this week…until I priced it at my local fist monger’s shop.
The poor country-boy in me just couldn’t shell out $12.50/lb for somethin’ I can catch with a cane pole and a couple of smelly chicken livers. Glancing around, I noticed that tilapia fillets were on sale $2.98/lb.
Well, there you go.
Fresh tilapia fillets can be rarer than an honest politician, in chain grocery stores, but the frozen, individual portioned version will work just fine, too. Just make sure you thaw them before soaking.
If you’re feeling brave, buy whole tilapia (usually cheaper, too) and fillet them yourself. I like my whole tilapia fillets scaled, but with the skin left on, as it adds an extra crunch and a little fat, but to each their own. My local Asian super-market has tanks of live tilapia, which they’ll net and fillet for you…doesn’t get much fresher than that!
Chef P’s Mock Fried Catfish
- 6 (4oz) tilapia fillets
- 2 cups milk
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 2 cups yellow cornmeal
- 1 Tbs seasoned salt
- 2 tsp coarse black pepper
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 2 tsp garlic salt
- Vegetable oil
Place tilapia fillets in a single layer in a shallow dish; cover with milk, sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt. Cover and chill 1 hour.
Combine cornmeal, seasoned salt, pepper, and onion powder in a shallow dish, and mix well.
Remove catfish fillets from refrigerator, and let stand at room temperature 10 minutes. Remove from milk, allowing excess to drip off. Sprinkle evenly with garlic salt.
Pre-heat your deep fryer, or add oil to depth of 1 1/2 inches into a large skillet; heat to 350F.
Dredge catfish fillets in cornmeal mixture, shaking off excess.
Home Chef’s Note: Dad had a trick he learned while cooking in Georgia. Place your fish fillet on top of the cornmeal mixture, mound the remaining cornmeal over the top until completely covered, then give the whole thing a firm press with an open hand. Shake off the excess and continue.
Fry fillets, in batches, about 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown.*
*The darker ou let them brown, within reason, the crispier the finished fillets will be.
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Drain on wire racks over paper towels.
Speaking for my people, you’ll be on these like a hungry ‘gator on a French poodle!
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