Southern fried catfish with jollof spice, my take on my Grandmother’s classic Friday night fish fry tried and true.
Jollof refers to a West African spice mix, that I was introduced to by Zoe Adjonyoh author of Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen. I tweaked her dry seasoning mix slightly and seasoned the fried catfish with it.
Full disclosure this was my first time ever eating or cooking fried fish of any kind. It’s a long story but longtime fish intolerance prevented me from ever participating fully in our weekly family fish fries. I learned to cook fish blindly, relying on my wife for quality control input. Though I had no idea of the taste and texture profile, I used my site recollection of my grandmother in action to deliver this recipe.
For a cool breakdown on how the music chords in song “Blind Alley” relates to the recipe check-out this tasting notes feature which explores the connection between food and music using this Southern Fried Catfish recipe.
- Catfish fillets
- Corn flour
- Dried Thyme
- Garlic Powder
- Smoked paprika
- Kosher salt
FRYING CATFISH THE SOUTHERN WAY
Mix all the spices together in a small mixing bowl and set aside
Marinate the fish
Pour the buttermilk in a large bowl. Add a ¼ of the jollof seasoning and mix well.
Add the fish to a glass container or large ziplock bag and cover with the buttermilk mix.
Let the fish marinate in the fridge for about 2 hours.
Bread the fish
Remove the fish from the fridge. Place a wire rack over a baking pan as part of your frying station.
Mix the cornmeal and flour together, then add half of the remaining spices and mix well.
Remove the fish from the buttermilk brine and dredge in the cornmeal mix. Place breaded catfish on the wire rack.
Fry the catfish
While the catfish warms to room temperature, heat up your fryer to 350 degrees F or alternatively heat oil in a cast-iron skillet.
Add the catfish fillets one at a time to the fryer and cook about 4-5 minutes. If cooking in a skillet you’ll need about 3 minutes per side.
Remove the fish from the fryer and allow to cool/drain on the wire rack. Sprinkle the fish with the remaining seasoning mix. Serve
COOKING TIPS AND CONSIDERATIONS
This recipe works with other types of white fish including tilapia, flounder, cod, etc.
All-purpose flour can be used in place of corn flour. But, absolutely do not substitute anything for the cornmeal!
Use a good paprika! The seasoning mix is great and adds a lot of flavor and nuance, but a good paprika adds a level of smokiness and depth that levels this up
Mix the dredge ingredients thoroughly, especially given the spice seasonings added. Paprika and cayenne are quite red as you know, if not mixed properly into the cornmeal and flour you’ll have dark spots on different parts of the fish. IT’s not a dramatic impact on flavor, but visually you lose a little bit.
Don’t overcook the fish. The fish will continue to cook outside of the fryer as it cools.
- 1 lb catfish
- 1 cup cornmeal
- ¼ cup corn flour
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- ½ tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp ginger
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp cayenne
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- ½ tbsp pepper
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- Mix all spices together in a mixing bowl. Add ¼ of the spice mix to buttermilk and mix well. Add fish to the buttermilk/spice mix. Marinate for at least an hour.
- Mix cornmeal plus flour, and half of remaining spice mix and set aside. Preheat fryer with oil to 350 degrees F (or, alternatively, heat oil in a skillet).
- Remove fish from buttermilk, then dredge in cornmeal mix. Add to the fryer and cook about 4 minutes. If cooking via skillet it will be about 3 minutes per side.
- Remove fish from fryer and let cool/drain on a wire rack, lined baking sheet, or paper towels. Sprinkle remaining spice mix onto the cooked fish. Serve with slaw or fries, and don’t forget your favorite condiment.