Taming the wild catfish is at the center of this recipe for Catfish Fillets in Satsuma-Lemon Meunière Sauce featuring a glaze of citrus butter with floral notes of white wine and rosemary along with the contrast of toasted Louisiana pecans—a classic combination.
I love the challenge of taking a humble (ordinary and inexpensive) ingredient and elevating it to a stellar, center-of-the-plate entrée. Pork belly, oxtails, and even turkey necks have been subjects of my past experiments resulting in some most interesting (and tasty) successes. And now, catfish is ready for its culinary close-up.
Catfish is a peculiar fish with just as many folks hating it as loving it. Here in the South, a stampede of interest in catfish took off in the 1970s with farmers flooding fields and bringing pond-raised fish to market. While profitable for a decade or so, this aquaculture bonanza was short-lived as the cost of fuel, feed, and labor coupled with an over-supply brought the industry to a screeching halt. And just when farmers thought they had a whisker of a chance to make money, the Asian invasion of cheap, frozen catfish (basa or swai) flooded the market. These days, there’s plenty of catfish to go around but sourcing locally caught fish has become more challenging.
But here in Louisiana, from Bayou Des Allemands to the basin waters of Henderson, and up the Red and Ouachita Rivers, wild Louisiana catfish are a culinary prize worth seeking. Channel cats, blues, and even flatheads are fished, netted, and noodled by Cajuns hungry for the taste of catfish.
It’s not uncommon to see folks lining the banks with hook and line in hand, or diving in the fresh-water ponds and bayous to hand-catch large 40 pounders, but in Acadiana’s vast wetlands of the Atchafalaya Basin, the Indian technique of hoop nets is the ticket for a mess of wild cats. Both recreational and commercial fishing assures a steady stream of wild catfish coming to the table. The taste is different: cleaner to the palate, with a more pronounced rich, buttery flavor
Here are the keys: You’ve got to find a reliable supplier and trust that what you are getting is fresh and wild. Buy it already filleted (you don’t want to spend time skinning catfish), and opt for the smaller catfish that has sweeter flesh and ensures that the fish will cook evenly. If your fillets are larger, trim them before cooking.
In my Catfish Fillets in Satsuma-Lemon Meunière Sauce recipe, I am adding a bit of flair to this humble fish that produces dramatic results. This isn’t your cornmeal-crusted fried catfish, but rather my fillets are lightly dusted in flour and pan-fried golden brown before being introduced to a buttery French meunière sauce. Roasting Louisiana pecans and sautéing them in farm-fresh butter borrows from the amandine recipe playbook of the haute-Creole eateries of New Orleans. And then I like how the contrast of tart and sweet in the satsuma/lemon combination splashed with a bit of wine works to add a citrusy and complex background to the dish. And the rosemary gives an herbal freshness that perfumes the plate.
Oh yeah, we’re letting the proverbial cat out of the bag with this Catfish Fillets in Satsuma-Lemon Meunière Sauce recipe.
- 4 (6 to 8-ounce) wild Louisiana catfish fillets
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup pecan halves
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 cup freshly peeled satsuma segments
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 4 lemon slices, seeds removed
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- Remove the fish from the package and trim any thin tail ends of the fillets so that they are of equal size and thickness. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Place the flour in a shallow pan and stir in the Cajun seasoning. Lightly dust the fillets on all sides with the flour and shake off any excess.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the butter and olive oil and bring to a sizzle. Add the fish and cook until browned on both sides. Remove and keep warm.
- With the remaining butter/oil in the skillet, place over medium-high heat, and scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the pecans, rosemary, garlic, satsuma, lemon juice, and lemon slices. Bring to a simmer and let cook for 5 minutes. Add the wine and cook until the sauce reduces by half, about 5 minutes. Sample the sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Add the catfish fillets back to the pan, and spoon over the sauce to coat. Let cook for 3 minutes longer and serve immediately.
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