Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Blackened Catfish with Peppers

My first experience with catfish was catching one while fishing for pickerel.  I landed this crazy looking fish with smooth milky black skin and whiskers.  I was probably 8 years old and fishing from shore.  I ran and showed my Dad and asked what it was.  He gave a great belly laugh and said "you caught a catfish, I didn't know there were any in this lake."
Can we eat it? I asked.
"Sure can.  They are really good eating"

So I ran into the cottage to show my Mom that I caught this cool fish.  She jumped and pointed at me..."Get that ugly fish out of MY kitchen!"  Needless to say I was disappointed.  But my Dad and I cleaned it outside and fried it up.  I was sold!  It is a delicate white flesh that was delicious. Since then on principle I order catfish whenever I see it on a menu and am virtually never disappointed.

I was raised in Southern Ontario and in the summers lived in a cottage on a lake.  My Mom's reaction is probably partly my fault.  I would bring frogs and snakes home in my pockets and sometimes she'd find turtles in my closet.

My wife Lesli and I took a holiday in Florida and when we were in the grocery store I saw catfish fillets.  First time for everything.  I knew I had to try my hand at cooking it again.  This is the recipe that I have worked out over the years.

3-4 catfish fillets
The rule of thumb is that smaller fillets are better than big ones.  In Vancouver they are all medium to small.  I only saw big ones in Florida.

Marinade 1/2 hour or more
1/4 cup white wine
1tbsp olive oil
salt / pepper to taste
2 -3 whole lime juice (no lemon)
( I used to use 1 whole lemon juiced and 1 whole lime juiced)
3-4 cloves garlic pressed

4 different coloured peppers cut into 1/4 - 1/2 inch strips 
Grape seed oil or olive oil 
3-4 cloves garlic pressed
1-2 tsp crushed hot red pepper  seeds
2 shallots cut fine


  • Cook the peppers first.  Remove the peppers after finished cooking.  Fry fish in same pan as peppers for approximately 5 minutes a side.
  • Warm oil, with shallots and garlic then slowly satay until cooked.  20-40 minutes.
Add garlic and shallots to warm oil
Slightly caramelize Shallots 

  • Put oil in large cast iron pan with sliced shallots and 3 cloves of pressed garlic.  Saute until starting to caramelise on medium heat.  About5-8 minutes.
Slice Peppers thin
A Full Pan of Peppers!

  • Then add sliced peppers and another tbsp of oil.  Add the Turn the heat down to medium-low and saute slowly for about 30-45 minutes until soft and the pan is getting blackened but not so hot that it is burning or smoking.  Turn the pan down lower if needed, it will just take a little longer- this part really can't be rushed.
Take it Slow
Blackened Build up of Goodness

  • I start the rice side dish while the peppers are cooking because this can take 20+ minutes.  Long Grain & Wild Rice with Mushrooms is our favourite with this recipe.  Hey, I don't have to make Fancy Pants things every time :)
  • Take the pepper out and put them on plates and place in a warmed oven to keep warm.
Flaky Side Down First
Frying 2nd Side for 5 minutes

  • Turn the heat up on the pan to medium.  Arrange the catfish in the pan with the flaky side down first. You will see the marinate drip of the fish and bubble and blacken as it cooks.  Fry for 5 minutes then flip over and cook another 5 minutes.  DON'T over cook!  It will look opaque when cook and not clear.  If its over cooked it will get chewy- yuck!
  • Plate the catfish and rice on the warm plates with the peppers.  The rice is nice because the peppers can be very hot sometimes depending on the amount of crushed red pepper seeds you use.

Even if you never make catfish at home, do yourself a favour and order it at a restaurant.  You will be thankful.  Just check to see if the cook has frogs or snakes in their pockets, then again, live on the wild side!

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