Butcher's Block: Catfish


As the summer unfolds we’re going to suggest some of our favorite food and wine pairings. In the coming months we’ll help you take the mystery out of specific wines and how they will compliment certain dishes. This month we’re preparing Blackened Catfish Over Grit Cakes With Lemon Beurre Blanc. The dish is a different take on a popular southern staple. I like to pair this entree with slightly floral chardonnay that I think has enough acidity to hold up to the richness of the beurre blanc. 2019 Magnolia Chardonnay. It is not a wine to break the bank and very well crafted.  I also love the story of these Mississippi natives who raise these grapes in the Saint Lucia Highlands of Monterey,  California. They then named the wine after the state flower of Mississippi to honor their southern roots.


Grit Cakes

I think all of the grit cakes on New Orleans menus were created out of necessity. Leftover grits from Saturday Night’s dinner service were poured into a pan and then set in the refrigerator.  The next day for brunch, we would turn them out on the counter, cut the desired shape and then they were breaded to be fried to order. Please take advantage of this concept if you do make grits and have leftovers. So good!  If you make them just for making grit cakes, this recipe will give you a batch that is firm enough to use the same way. 

For the Grits                                                                                                                                                                   (If you don’t have Delta Grind grits then it will work with another brand.  It just won’t be as tasty)

1 Pound Delta Grind Grits

1 Quart Whole Milk

3 cups Water

4 Ounces Unsalted Butter

4 ounces Cream Cheese, room temp and cubed

8 ounces Sharp Cheddar, grated

1 Tablespoon Ground White Pepper

1 ½ Tablespoon Kosher salt

Bring the milk and water to a boil and add the grits. Turn the heat to low and stir often until the grits are tender.  Stir in the remaining ingredients and continue to stir off the heat until they are incorporated and smooth.  Pour into a greased casserole dish and allow them to cool and then place them in the refrigerator to get cold.

For the Grit Cakes

In a food processor, blitz up half of a loaf of poboy bread.  You want relatively fine breadcrumbs. These “fresh” breadcrumbs will give you a lighter, fluffier crust. Put them in a bowl and season with salt and pepper

In another bowl, mix all-purpose flour with some salt and pepper

In a third bowl, whisk 5 or 6 eggs together with a splash of water.

Turn your cold grits out on the counter and cut any shape you like.  I like to make them the size and shape of whatever is going on top. Line your bowls up like this: Flour-Egg wash-Breadcrumbs and then a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Gently coat your cakes, one at a time, in flour, shaking of the excess.  Then roll them in the egg wash to coat and then roll them in the breadcrumbs. Finally put the breaded grit cakes on the cookie sheet.  After you’re done, put them back in the refrigerator until it’s time to fry them

Lemon Beurre Blanc

1 large purple Spring Onion, sliced (2 Dog Farms has the best)

2 Lemons with the rind removed

1 Cup White Wine

2-3 shakes of Crystal Hot Sauce

2 Ounces Heavy Whipping Cream

5 Sprigs Fresh Thyme

1 ½ Pounds Unsalted Butter, cubed

Add everything put the milk and butter into a saucepan. On medium heat, cook out the moisture until it is almost a syrup. Use a whisk to crush the lemons as you reduce.

When it’s ready, add your cream. Then start adding the butter, one piece at a time and whisk constantly until you have incorporated all of the butter. The trick here is to add it slow enough so that the sauce is still hot BUT to control the temperature so that the sauce doesn’t come to a simmer. If it does, the sauce will separate and there’s not much you can do besides start over. Keep it warm until you’re ready to plate

Blackening Seasoning

2 Tablespoons Paprika

1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt

1 Teaspoon Fresh Ground Black Pepper

1 Teaspoon Ground White Pepper

1 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder

1 Teaspoon Onion Powder

½ Teaspoon Dried Thyme

½ Teaspoon Dried Oregano

Blackened Catfish

We use Simmon’s Delacata cut catfish.  It is a thicker piece than what you would fry so it is perfect for blackening. 

Heat a cast iron skillet on high heat.  While it is getting hot, coat your catfish fillets with blended oil or just vegetable oil.  Sprinkle the blackening seasoning over the top, making sure to cover it evenly.  I don’t think I’ve ever said “too much blackening seasoning’ so don’t be scared.

Place your fish, seasoning side down in the pan and sear until the edges of the fish turn pale and the seasoning has turned “black” but not burnt.  At this point, I like to flip them and turn the heat off to let them finish cooking through.  If you poke the thickest part and it gives way, then you’re ready.

To Plate!

Fry your grit cakes at 375 degrees in enough vegetable oil to complete submerge them. Cook them to a dark golden brown.

On a plate, put 2-3 ounces of your sauce down in the center and top with the grit cake, place your catfish on top of that. You can stop here and add some more sauce to the top or you can add some veggies to balance the dish out.  I’ve even put a poached egg on top for brunch menus. I like to do our braised greens and then add the sauce over the top of it for a dinner main course