First of all I LOVE fried catfish. I remember hot Summer eves alongside the Mississippi river, having all-you-can-eat fried catfish, drinking ice tea out of old mason jars, and watching the riverboats move slowly up and down the mighty Mississippi.
I don’t know if those family restaurants still exist, but I hope they do because they are a part of the Old South that should never go away or be forgotten.
I wanted to make catfish that was baked, not fried, but was still moist and tasty. It took my entire last weekend in the test kitchen, and 20 pounds of catfish, but here are the results.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, dijon mustard, and the hot sauce.
Place the breadcrumbs into another bowl.
Take one of the pieces of catfish, and dredge it in the cornmeal/flour mixture. Making sure that the fillet is completely and evenly covered.
Drop it into the buttermilk/egg mixture, and allow the flour to absorb the liquid, about 15 seconds per side.
Chef's Tip: To keep my hands as dry as possible, I place the catfish in the liquid using a pair of tongs.
Place the fillet into the breadcrumbs, and throughly cover. Use your hands to scoop up the breadcrumbs and press them into the fish.
Place the finished catfish on the rack inside the baking sheet, and repeat for the other fillets.
Allow the fillets to rest for about 15 minutes.
Chef's Note: This resting period will help the coating stick to the fish, during the baking process.
Place a rack in the middle position, and preheat your oven to 425f (220c).
Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the coating begins to nicely brown.
Chef's Note: Panko breadcrumbs are not a part of traditional southern fried catfish; however, their addition adds another level of flavor to the fish, and helps to keep the fillets moist during their time in the oven. This is why I call the recipe Baked Southern Catfish with a Twist.
Serving Tip: If you like you can serve these fillets with a nice bowl of dirty rice, or just a big bowl of homemade hushpuppies… YUM.