dinner · entree · fish

Buttermilk Fried Catfish with Southern Gremolata

Is there anything more summer, or Southern, than a fish fry?

Just the smell of catfish fillets (or nuggets) dipped in golden cornmeal and then fried until crispy makes my mouth water. I’ve grown up around catfish, and good ‘ol fish fries, my entire life. Catfish may be a bottom feeder, but it sure does have a way of bringing people together.

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Whether that is family or strangers, frying up catfish can always start a good conversation and turn a bad day into a good one. I usually like the catfish nuggets to fry. They’re thick and succulent and the breading sticks onto them like butter to a corn cob. However, I’ve been on a Swai fillet kick lately. Swai is cheap and better-tasting, honestly.

I’m shocked that it’s taken this long for me to fry my own catfish. I’m used to my mom making it, but ever since I moved out I’ve never tried to make it. I finally got a hankering for the Southern classic and set down to make my own version.

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Classic golden cornmeal, check. Contemporary pecan gremolata, check. Wait, what? You read that right. I couldn’t just give you a normal fried catfish recipe without a twist now, could I?

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Gremolata. Let’s break that word down. It’s an Italian topping that is usually made with lemon zest, garlic and parsley. Mine takes on a more de-constructed pesto look— with chunks of pecans mixed in with the zesty parsley mixture. Throw in some orange zest and you’ve got yourself quite the unique gremolata.

So, toss that tartar sauce aside. Try your fried catfish with this extra crunchy topping next time!

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Buttermilk Fried Catfish with Southern Gremolata

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 20 mins
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Golden fried catfish fillets topped with a crunchy pecan and parsley gremolata.

Ingredients

  • 4 large catfish fillets
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 2 tsp. Cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (or vegetable oil, for frying)

For the gremolata:

  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
  • 2 TBS. grated lemon zest
  • 1 TBS. grated orange peel
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar

Directions

  1. Set up a dredging station for the catfish: pour buttermilk into a medium bowl. In a large bowl, stir together cornmeal, flour, Cajun seasoning and cayenne. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Dip catfish into buttermilk, shake off extra milk and then dredge in cornmeal mixture on both sides. Fry until golden, about 4 minutes on each side, until fish flakes easily with a fork. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.
  2. Make the gremolata: In a food processor, pulse all ingredients until small but still chunky. Top fried catfish fillets with gremolata.

Step-By-Step Instructions

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Set up a dredging station for the catfish: pour buttermilk into a medium bowl. In a large bowl, stir together cornmeal, flour, Cajun seasoning and cayenne.

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Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Dip catfish into buttermilk, shake off extra milk and then dredge in cornmeal mixture on both sides. Fry until golden, about 4 minutes on each side, until fish flakes easily with a fork. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.

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Make the gremolata: In a food processor, pulse all ingredients until small but still chunky.

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The gremolata should look like this, a small crumb but not completely pulsed together.

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Top fried catfish fillets with gremolata.

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7 thoughts on “Buttermilk Fried Catfish with Southern Gremolata

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