Fried Catfish With Tartar Sauce Recipe

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World-renowned pro pitmaster and chef Melissa Cookston's new cookbook, Smokin' in the Boys' Room, is exactly what you need to freshen up your grilling repertoire before prime season hits. She's a 3-time world champion, you know. From the cuts of meat you want to eat to sides, marinades and her own time-tested techniques, don't break out the barbecue before digging into this book. Or in this case, the fried fish fixins.

Mississippi farm-raised catfish is the best in the world. I'm not sure why, but I am sure that the folks in the Delta know their catfish. Farm-raised catfish is clean tasting, with a nice flaky texture when cooked correctly, and will compare favorably to much more expensive fish.

Reprinted with permission from Smokin' in the Boys' Room

Fried Catfish With Tartar Sauce Recipe
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  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
  • 1 tablespoon yellow onion
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • canola oil
  • 2 cups self-rising yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 4 fillets catfish
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • slices of yellow onion or scallions for serving (optional)
  1. To make the tartar sauce, combine all the ingredients in a small mixing bowl, whisk well, then set aside. 
  2. Heat 2 inches of oil in a large skillet or a deep fryer to 350°F.
  3. Combine the cornmeal, pepper, salt, granulated garlic and onion powder on a large plate and mix well.
  4. Rinse the fillets, then lightly dust them with the seasoned cornmeal.
  5. Dredge through the buttermilk, then lay one side in the cornmeal mixture and press lightly to make sure the cornmeal sticks. Flip and press the other side.
  6. Gently lay each fillet in the hot oil and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, then flip and cook for 2 to 3 minutes longer, or until the coating is crunchy and the fish is cooked thoroughly.
  7. Remove the fillets and drain on paper towels, then serve with the tartar sauce on the side.
  8. In Mississippi, it’s also traditional to serve catfish with a slice of yellow onion or a whole scallion.
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