Catfish is one of my favorite types of fish to eat. Because they are bottom feeders, I have heard people say they taste like mud, but that has never been my experience. If you catch your own catfish it may indeed taste muddy, not to mention it may be full of pesticides and pollution from the river sediment. Catfish you buy in the store or at your fish purveyor has been farm raised, making it eco-friendly and a sustainable food choice. We are rapidly over fishing many species in our oceans, so farm raised catfish is a good option. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a great program called Seafood Watch which lists the fish you should avoid due to overfishing, damage to the habitats of sea animals or the plight of sea animals who get caught in fishing nets. You can even print out a guide to take with you to your store.
Catfish crusted with cornmeal and fried is a classic Southern dish. I love fried catfish, but in the interest of health (or the fact that my jeans cringe when I come near them) I oven fried it instead. But the meaty, flaky texture of catfish lends itself to almost any kind of cooking. Grilled, baked or in a fish stew, catfish is a healthy way to get protein in your diet.
Oven Fried Pecan Crusted Catfish
1 lb catfish filets
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 TB Cajun seasoning
3 TB butter, melted
1 TB olive oil
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a baking sheet with nonstick spray. Place catfish filets onto baking sheet.
In medium bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, pecans and Cajun seasoning. Add the butter and olive oil, and mix well to moisten all the breadcrumbs. This mixture will be quite crumbly, but hold together when pressed. Evenly divide the breadcrumb mixture between the filets, pressing down to pack the crumbs tightly. Let the filets rest for about 5 minutes before putting into the oven.
Bake the catfish for about 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of your filets. To check if the catfish is done, the fish will flake easily and will be completely opaque.
The crust on the fish will still be slightly crumbly, so be careful removing the fish from the pan.
For more catfish information and recipes go to The Catfish Institute.