Blackened catfish is a great dish to serve any time of year. This mild fish will come out with a nice crispy sear. It will be juicy, and coated with a spicy, herb filled crust. You don’t have to limit yourself to catfish. It doesn’t even have to be fish. You can blacken a lot of different proteins. Try chicken, beef or pork. You can even blacken potatoes. This is a very versatile seasoning that will keep for quite a while.
Red Fish Craze
I can remember going unto restaurants in the 80’s, and seeing blackened red fish on menus. It seemed every restaurant on the planet was serving blackened red fish. All of this started with Paul Prudhomme. He was a New Orleans chef and restaurant owner. It turns out, he didn’t have a grill in his kitchen. So, he turned to very hot cast iron skillets. People came from miles around. Soon it spread nationally, and red fish almost became extinct. At the height of the fad, some folks were paying $60.00 a plate for red fish. That’s about $150.00 in today’s dollars!
Blackened Catfish Technique
It’s not about the fish. This is another recipe that requires technique. First, you need a hot cast iron pan. By hot, I mean screaming, white hot. Blackening comes from browning the butter, not the spices or the fish. Pat the fish dry before cooking. This will allow the spices to adhere to the catfish, and create a better sear. Dip the fish in melted butter, then in the herb mixture. If you put the butter in hot pan first, it will burn. You will end up with a charred, nasty mess. Another way to aid the cooking process is by spooning butter on top of the fish as you cook it.
You can play with the ingredients here. You can also buy store brand seasoning. But, it will be better if you make your own. Some people prefer a spicy mix, and some do not. Personally, I don’t want to be overwhelmed by the heat. I want to taste the fish. Just adjust the Cayenne pepper. Use dried herbs when making this seasoning. Fresh herbs will burn, and become bitter. You can store this spice mix in a sealed jar for up to two years.
A few words of caution. Blackened Catfish can be hazardous. Open some windows and doors. Turn off your smoke detector. Have some fans at the ready. The cooking process is going to create a lot of smoke. You can do this outside on a grill if you don’t want smoke in your house. Lastly, be advised that the pan can flame up when cooking. Not to worry. Just remove it from the heat for a moment. It will die off. When all is said and done the fish will be delicious, but be mindful of the smoke and heat.
Blackened Catfish Supreme
There are several great ways to serve this dish. Drawn butter is always good. Garnish with lemon and lime wedges. I think this works well. The acidity cuts some of the spice, and gives the fish a different zing. Another great garnish is Remoulade sauce. Again, it kind of deflects some of the spices, and adds a little richness . You can enjoy your blackened catfish knowing that a lot of chefs made big bucks from blackening. If only you and I had come up with this. We’d be sitting pretty.
- 1 Tablespoon Paprika
- 1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder
- 1 Tablespoon Onion Powder
- 2 Tablespoons Black Pepper, Freshly Ground
- 1/2 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
- 1/2 Teaspoon Dried Basil
- 1/2 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
- 1/4 - 1 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
- 2 Teaspoons Salt
- 1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter, Melted
- 2 Catfish Filets
- In a small bowl, mix together the Paprika, garlic and onion powders, pepper, dried herbs, Cayenne pepper and salt. Set aside.
- Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat, about three to four minutes. It will get smoky, so make sure you have your exhaust fan on high, and some windows open. You may want to disengage your smoke detector.
- While the pan is heating, melt the butter in a shallow bowl.
- Dry the fish with paper toweling. Dip the catfish into the butter, coating all sides. Dredge the fish in the spice mixture, patting it into the flesh. Gently shake off any excess coating. Place the filets on some waxed paper.
- When the pan is smoking hot, place the fish inside without crowding the pan. It will sizzle fiercely. Top each filet with one teaspoon of the melted butter. Cook two minutes. Using a metal spatula, carefully flip the fish. Add another teaspoon of butter. Cook an additional two minutes. Transfer the catfish to warm plates, and serve immediately.