Crispy Baked Catfish Fingers with Buttermilk Herb Sauce
Recently, I had the honor of becoming a recipe tester for the Seafood for the Future program. They give me some recipes to choose from, I cook the recipe, and do a write-up. It’s so much fun and I’m so excited to be involved with this wonderful program! Their mission is to educate people on making healthy and responsible seafood choices. Here’s my first write-up for the program.
My husband and I decided to try this dish because we’ve never had catfish before. We’ve cooked some basic white fish, like cod, halibut, and tilapia. We’ve also made scallops and shrimp at home, but that’s as far as we have ventured. We thought the catfish would be good because it would have a bit more flavor than the basic white fish, but not too strong of a flavor like salmon. I was also intrigued by the idea that this fish was baked. So many fish dishes are sautéed or fried, and the calorie count can get so high. This sounded like a lighter way to prepare fish without too much added fat.
The raw catfish was a pretty light pink color with the skin side having a slightly shiny grey appearance. The fillets developed a crack in the flesh from me opening the package and turning the fish over a couple of times, so I thought it was a tender and delicate fish. However, after working with it, cutting it, and breading it, I don’t think the flesh is all that fragile. It stood up to my working with it without falling apart. The fillets were thick and easy to cut. The skin took a little bit more pressure to cut with the knife, but was by no means tough.
There were several steps to set up this recipe, but none of them were difficult. The actual active time for prep was minimal, only about 25-30 minutes, and only 13 minutes to bake the fish to crispy perfection. Once the fish was baked, plating only took a couple minutes, and it was ready to eat.
You’ll find the recipe below with some detailed instructions and photos to assist you in the preparation of the dish. Since this was baked in the oven, it made cooking the fish really easy and eliminated the guesswork. There was no worry about how hot the pan needed to be, if the fish would stick, or if it would fall through the grill. And the fish was cooked perfectly without being dry or undercooked.
One note, though, that you should have a roasting rack for your oven (some people may not have this). Also, make sure to spray the roasting rack with non-stick spray so that the fish easily releases from the rack. I didn’t spray the rack with non-stick cooking spray, and had some difficulty getting the fish off the rack. Also, use a flat spatula to take the fish off of the roasting rack; the flat spatula will work better than tongs or a thick spatula.
The recipe indicates that the flour, the eggs, and the bread crumbs should be placed in bowls. The bowls should be shallow, however, I used a plate for dredging the fish in the flour and the bread crumbs, thinking it would be easier to get the fish in and out and coated evenly.
This recipe for crispy catfish had three different types of acids, the orange juice, lemon juice, and lime wedges. The crispy-crunchy comes from the bread crumbs and the flour coating on the catfish. There’s an element of salt in the flour coating as well as in the Worcestershire sauce and the mayonnaise. I loved the fresh parsley in the bread crumb coating, as well as the dill and thyme in the dipping sauce.
The catfish itself was very good. It was a light white fish with slightly more flavor than the cod or halibut that we’re used to. That extra flavor was nice, but not overpowering (the way some salmon can be overpoweringly fishy). Once cooked, it had a tender flakey texture. We also tried the catfish without eating the skin, and the flavor became even milder; it was similar to cod in appearance, texture, and flavor once the skin was removed. This didn’t seem like a very fatty fish, and would probably dry out if overcooked.
There was a lot of sauce for the amount of catfish that we made. I think that you’ll have leftover sauce – which could be great for dipping some veggies.
As I stated before, we decided to try the catfish because we hadn’t ever tried it before. In fact, we’ve rarely had freshwater fish. When I look for fish to try at home or going out to a restaurant, I check the sustainability app from Monterey Bay Aquarium. Without checking the app for catfish’s sustainability status, I would think that most freshwater fish are pretty sustainable. They can be easily raised in a non-destructive and environmentally sound way.
I got two large catfish fillets, and since it was only my husband and me eating the catfish dinner, we decided to save the other fillet and cook it on another night. I think I’ll try the same basic recipe making a few changes. I’ll process the bread crumbs in the food processor rather than in a plastic ziptop bag (less trash and less mess). I always end up having the thing that’s being crushed in the bag tear through the bag and start leaving crumbs on the counter. So, I’m not a fan of the ziptop bag method. The other way I’ve heard of crushing the bread crumbs is placing them on a cookie sheet and rolling over them with a rolling pin or the bottom of a pan. This too seems like less trash and less mess.
I’ll also switch up some of the ingredients. I’m not a fan of mayonnaise or Worcestershire. I usually substitute in sour cream, crème fraiche, or mascarpone for mayo and soy sauce for Worcestershire. If I were making this dish at home with just a recipe to guide me, I might not be sure what “pretoasted croutons” exactly means. So, I might change that to say “purchased” croutons or just croutons.
I would serve this crispy catfish with roasted red potatoes with rosemary and creamed spinach. Or, if I were going a little less formal, I think coleslaw and some fresh veggies for dipping into the buttermilk herb sauce would be great.
Please see below the recipe card for detailed photos
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- 2 each 6-8 oz Catfish Fillet - cut into 8-10 large strips
- ¼ cup flour
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- Salt and pepper
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
- 2 cups croutons or bread crumbs, toasted
- 1 tablespoon flat parsley, chopped
- Cooking spray
- ¼ cup buttermilk
- ¼ cup sour cream
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
- 1 lemon, both juiced and zested
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 lime cut into wedges
- Preheat oven to 375° F
- Place the flour, paprika, salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl or plate.
- Mix the egg and orange juice in a separate shallow bowl.
- Place the bread crumbs and parsley in a food processor and pulse until you get fine bread crumbs. Place crumbs in another shallow bowl or on a plate.
- Dredge the catfish pieces in the flour, then the egg mix, and finally coat liberally with the bread crumb mixture. Spray the roasting rack with non-stick cooking spray, and place the roasting rack over a baking pan.
- Place the fish on the roasting rack, and bake the breaded catfish in the in the 375° oven for 13 minutes.
- For the Sauce: While the catfish is baking, combine all the ingredients for the sauce by mixing together vigorously. Set aside in a serving bowl.
- To serve: Serve the catfish immediately with fresh lime wedges and the herb dipping sauce. Garnish with additional parsley if desired.
- Equipment: Baking Sheet, Oven Roasting Rack, citrus zester, juicer