Creating recipes isn't a pastime—it's a passion. And a lot of fun.

The rules are few: Use 99% fresh ingredients (or thereabouts); make the dish simple but flavorful; make the dish flavorful but simple; be creative, not silly.

With this blog, I want to share new recipes, along with tips on ingredients and preparation, and, hopefully, show new cooks (and non-cooks) the pleasure in setting the table with a delicious homemade meal. The Briny Lemon is about fresh, simple, flavorful ingredients and easy cooking methods that help you bring the best to your family table. Your comments are welcome!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Cajun Fried Catfish with Chile-Tartar Sauce

Cajun seasoning is all about the spices—not necessarily hot spices, but aromatic and bold with rich, smoky flavor. And, yes, a little bit of heat. The seasoning isn’t complicated, since the ingredients are simple and easy to find. The key lies in using enough. In other words, don’t be shy.

Common ingredients include ground cayenne, paprika, black pepper, dried oregano and thyme, and onion powder. Cajun-style fish is often served blackened—fast, high-temperature cooking that darkens the spice coating and seals in that delicious Cajun flavor.

Spices for Cajun Seasoning
For this recipe, I wanted a crunchy coating of cornmeal blended with the spices to give the catfish a down-home southern flair. A simple dollop of homemade tartar sauce gives the crispy fish a cool, creamy finish—with a little heat of its own.

Serves 2


For the Tartar Sauce
  • 1/4 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1 serrano chile, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped dill pickle
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp chopped capers
  • 1/4 tsp dried red chile flakes
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
For the Catfish
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp dried oregano or thyme (or a blend)
  • 3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 6-oz skinless catfish filets or 1 12-oz filet, halved (about 3/4 inch in thickest part)
  • 2 tbsp peanut oil
  • sea salt
Catfish Pieces

For the Tartar Sauce
  1. Combine the first 6 ingredients (through chile flakes) in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour. (May also be made a day ahead.)
Tartar Sauce Ingredients 
Chile-Tartar Sauce
For the Catfish
  1. Whisk the egg in a shallow bowl.
  2. Combine the cornmeal and next 5 ingredients (through onion powder) in a sturdy, sealable plastic bag.
  3. Dip each filet in the egg, letting excess drip off. Place the filets in the bag with the spice mixture and shake to coat all over.
  4. Transfer the coated fish to a plate and refrigerate 30 minutes (refrigeration helps the coating adhere to the fish while cooking).
Combine the Spices in a Bag
Cajun-Seasoned Catfish

  1. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add the peanut oil. Season the filets with salt and fry until dark golden brown and just cooked through, 4-5 minutes per side, depending on thickness.
Fish Beginning to Fry
Cajun Fried Catfish
Serve the fish dolloped with chile-tartar sauce, or serve the sauce alongside.

Cajun Fried Catfish with Chile-Tartar Sauce

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