Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is observed on the third Monday in January, which is a welcome break between the holidays and the beginning of Spring. To celebrate this holiday in a suitable manner, a delicious Soul Food dinner is certainly in order! I’m aware that most of us don’t have much time to put together an extensive soul food menu, let alone spend hours in the kitchen, but its possible to choose just a few quick and easy dishes that will allow you to celebrate properly without expending too much of your valuable time.
One of the most popular entrées in soul food restaurants is Fried Catfish. Most restaurants prepare their catfish by cutting the filets into fingers about 1 1/2" wide and 3-4” long. The fingers are then dipped into an egg wash and coated with a seasoned cornmeal mixture. The catfish is then either deep-fried or pan-fried until it is crisp and golden brown.
This dish is very quick and easy to prepare at home. I prefer the pan-frying version in a home setting; it doesn’t stink up the house as much as deep-frying does, and it uses a lot less vegetable oil.
If you know you will be short on time just before dinner, you can dip the catfish pieces in the egg wash and coat them in the cornmeal mixture several hours ahead. They can then be refrigerated in a single layer on a baking sheet until about 15 minutes before you plan to serve them.
I like to serve homemade tartar sauce with my fried catfish, as well as lemon wedges. You can serve some easy vegetable dishes alongside the fish, or throw together some coleslaw with a quick and easy dressing and pre-shredded cabbage mix from the grocery store. Tartar sauce can be whipped up in a matter of minutes, but it can also be made a week or so ahead; it keeps well in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
If you’d like more ideas for side dishes to serve with your catfish, click the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day link at the bottom of this article.
Southern Fried Catfish
12 4-5 ounce catfish fillets
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup vegetable oil, or lard for frying
Wash the catfish fillets, cut them into serving size pieces, and set aside.
Whisk the eggs and milk and place in a shallow bowl.
Mix the flour, cornmeal, salt, and pepper; put in a Ziploc bag or on a large plate.
Dip each fillet in the egg mixture, then coat with the cornmeal mixture.
Pour oil into a large skillet (preferably cast iron) to about 1/2" deep. Heat on medium-high heat to 375° and fry the coated catfish pieces 3 or 4 at a time, until golden brown on each side. (Make sure you avoid crowding in the pan; if you put too many pieces in, the temperature of the oil will drop and you will have greasy catfish.) Drain on paper towels and keep warm until all are cooked.
Prepare tartar sauce by mixing 1 cup mayonnaise (reduced fat is okay; non-fat is not okay) with 1/3 cup sweet relish, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon ketchup. You can adjust the measurements to your own taste. You may also want to add dried dill, fresh chopped parsley, and/or capers.
Amount Per Serving
Calories 390 - Calories from Fat 210
Percent Total Calories From: Fat 54% Protein 28% Carb. 18%
Nutrient Amount per Serving
Total Fat 23 g
Saturated Fat 4 g
Cholesterol 129 mg
Sodium 467 mg
Total Carbohydrate 18 g
Dietary Fiber 0 g
Sugars 0 g
Protein 27 g
Vitamin A 4% Vitamin C 2% Calcium 0% Iron 5%