Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I guess I don't like catfish after all

Isn't this pretty?

Catfish panfried until golden, then topped with a tomato, basil, and olive sauce.

Too bad I didn't like it very much.

Well, I liked the sauce part. After I cooked the fish, I melted some butter and oil in the same pan, threw in cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, and garlic and cooked it until the tomatoes broke, about two minutes. Stirred in some basil for an herby finish.

The sauce would be good on pasta. Or bruschetta. Or over chicken. Or with a different kind of fish. Just not catfish. I decided, with this recipe, that I don't like catfish after all. I've eaten it many times in my life and each time, I think to myself, "Do I like this?"

Sometimes I've overcooked it. Surely that hasn't helped. Catfish already learns toward the tough side--overcook it and it's a rubbery mess. But I've also undercooked it. That's no good either. Unlike tuna or salmon, catfish needs to be done all the way through or it gives me the heeby jeebies.

There's a secret to cooking catfish, but I don't know what it is. And I think I'll devote myself to unlocking other mysteries of the kitchen. Because even if it were cooked perfectly, I'm not sure I would love it. The sauce, however--that's a keeper.

Quick tomato and olive sauce
A Hungry Dog original

1 pint cherry tomatoes
1-2 garlic cloves minced
1 T. olive oil
2 T. butter
1/4 c. pitted olives, chopped
2-3 T. chopped basil

Melt butter and oil in a saute pan over medium high heat. After the butter has foamed and subsided, toss in tomatoes, olives, and garlic. Let cook for a couple of minutes over lively heat, until the skin on the tomatoes splits. Turn off the heat. Add salt and pepper to taste, and basil.

Serve over anything but catfish.


  1. Before you give up on catfish, you gotta try Auntie Jeanne's recipe in the family cookbook (vol. 2). Every time I make this dish (like tonight) the kids eat it right up; and they're not really fish-lovers. You dip the fillets in egg white and cornstarch and fry them up, then finish by braising in the holy trinity of soy sauce/sherry/sugar plus ginger. Cilantro garnish and white rice are also essential.

  2. I, too, am not particularly fond of catfish. Possibly because it has a distinct flavor which may be related to its being a bottom feeder. Your Dad used to serve a good catfish dish -- Chinese style (maybe similar to Jen's recipe). I could look for his recipe. Also, I've read that soaking the fish in buttermilk improves the catfish flavor. Your sauce will be good on snapper or petrale sole. MOM

  3. I grew up in commercial fishing, and then became a catfish farmer, because it is such a good fish! I think your biggest problem is that maybe you are not getting the best product. We supply Whole Foods Markets, and I challenge you to pick up some fresh fillets and grill them with just salt and pepper...or Old Bay seasoning...or asian spices. Catfish will take just about any spice or sauce well. (Of course it's great when lightly dusted and fried!) Do not over-cook any fish to rubberiness; 5 minutes per side for an 8-ounce fillet is plenty. -Rob

  4. Jary: YOu're right, I do need to try Auntie Jeanne's recipe. You've mentioned that one's time I gave it a spin!

    Mom: I could try that buttermilk trick. And, I remember dad making steamed whole catfish, which I liked--maybe steaming it is the trick to keeping it soft and not rubbery.

    Rob: Thank you for stopping by...I'll try your suggestions. I think I overcooked it the last time.

  5. The sauce makes me swoon-it is so flavorful and pretty. Hmmm. Catfish. I struggle with fish in general, not sure why. However, when forced to try a catfish fillet, I was okay since it was light white fish, that did not overpower me with fishiness. Try it again. I am thinking you need to prepare it the southern way, breaded, deep fried and served up with hushpuppies and coleslaw.

  6. How about catfish braised in a fish sauce-caramel sauce braise a la Vietnamese-style? You might like it better that way, as it soaks up all those salty, sweet, pungent flavors. Plus, when it's braised like that, there's less chance of it drying out.

  7. i haven't yet discovered the secret to making catfish edible either, but at least you know how to make it beautiful! if you stumble upon a winner, do let us know. :)

  8. That sure does look extremely pretty! Can't say that I've ever tried to cook my own catfish (nor would I know where to source any), but in Malaysia, catfish curry is a sought after delicacy.

  9. velva: how right you are. Breaded and fried served along hushpuppies,how could I resist?

    CJ: Well now that sounds good! Got a recipe to share?

    grace: Thank you!

    shaz: catfish curry...I could get behind that. Maybe making a sauce is the key...

  10. My main problem with catfish is that it can be mealy, and sometimes has a muddy flavor. That's why it has to be smothered in blackening spices. Or cornmeal-crusted and fried. Though I probably wouldn't miss it if it disappeared off the face of the Earth tomorrow.

    The sauce sounds great, though!

  11. I agree with Carolyn: I like a Vietnamese-style caramel sauced catfish (look in JF Vol.II) for a recipe adapted from Joyce Jue. (Chinese-style) whole poached catfish, dressed in sizzling garlic oil, soy sauce, shredded ginger, scallions and cilantro, is a house favorite for us, with lots of steamed rice. (Weird fact: catfish don't have scales!)

  12. I can't believe I'm saying this but I bet the only way you'll like catfish is if you deep-fry it!! That's probably the only way to enjoy it. I feel like the Vietnamese style (which I love) works best with fish that are more steak like like halibut or bass. Catfish won't have enough meat to stand up to the caramel sauce, IMHO.

  13. I've tried many different kinds of fish over the years, always thinking maybe I'd like this one or that one. But it always ends the same way - they all taste like fish. : ) Still don't like it. haha The sauce does sound great though!

  14. camille: "Mealy" and "muddy" are two horrible adjectives!

    Tracey: Ok clearly I need to spend some time with the fam cookbooks and give some of the catfish recipes a try!

    Ben: That is rather shocking coming from you!

    oneordinaryday: Well, give the sauce a try on something else! :)

  15. Catfish. I love fish, but I find the only way to eat catfish is blackened or fried. Period the end.
    Your sauce however is fab. A keeper.

  16. Ah, I guess they can't all be winners. I don't think I've ever tried catfish. Beautiful sauce daaaahling. It looks very vibrant and fresh.
    *kisses* HH

  17. Pam: yes, that seems to be the consensus.

    HH: Well, you may not be missing anything! Do try the sauce though.