Over the years, the culinary technique of blackening has become one of my favorite methods for cooking fish of any kind–especially catfish. With the deep, dark flavor of pungent spices that seal in the moist flesh of wild-caught catfish, it’s cloaked in a rich, lemony butter sauce that zings with taste. I love it so. But, how I arrived at learning this Blackened Catfish recipe is a story in itself, and one that will save you the embarrassment that still haunts me. Although it was almost two decades ago, I remember it like it was yesterday, and I still say, “It’s all your fault, Paul Prudhomme! ”
Yes, it’s your fault Chef Paul for being the Creole-cooking genius that inspired me to follow your steps into the dark, uncharted waters of the blackened abyss. Oh, I miss you so. I still idolize you; I still follow your recipes, and I will always devour your every word–your every delicious dish. But, I will never blacken a fish again–indoors.
Admittedly, I’ve had my share of kitchen disasters that I chalk up to “just another learning experience.” Like, never put half-frozen French fries into hot grease–duh! Never boil pasta in an unwatched pot–yuck! And never shave truffles with a razor sharp mandoline–ouch! But nothing prepared me for the ultimate failure that still haunts me to this day.
Oh, you see it coming, don’t you? Here’s the culinary equation: screaming hot cast iron skillet + buttered fish fillets + monitored smoke alarm = Hello, fire department! Yep, this was one dinner party that went up in smoke and quickly outdoors–which is where it should have been in the first place.
The chef warned me. It was right there on his website, in the headnotes of the simple Cajun recipe:
If you don’t have a commercial hood vent over your stove, this dish will set off every smoke alarm in your neighborhood! It’s better to cook it outdoors on a gas grill or a butane burner.
But, who reads headnotes? Certainly not an experienced epicurean like me. Yeah, right! There are reasons that recipes are written with detailed, step-by-step instructions. Any good recipe writer (or follower) should know that. And to Chef Paul’s credit, he knew it too.
So, here I go once again; to make this Blackened Catfish recipe, to make things right, to restore my reputation, and to regain your respect.
I’m back in.
Time to blacken.
- 3 tablespoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire powder
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 teaspoon lemon pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ cup melted unsalted butter
- 4 large (6 to 8 ounces each) catfish fillets, preferably wild-caught
- 8 (1 tablespoon each) pats of unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 8 lemon slices
- 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- Add all of the ingredients to a food processor and blend. Pour into an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 6 months.
- On an outdoor gas grill or propane (or butane) burner, preheat a seasoned cast-iron skillet until very hot (this will take about 10 minutes).
- Brush both sides of the fillets with melted butter and coat with blackening seasoning.
- Add 2 pats of butter to the skillet and let melt. Using a large spatula, add a catfish fillet to the hot skillet and let cook on the first side for 1 minute (or a bit longer if your fillet is thicker) without moving. Gently turn the fish over and cook on the other side until done, about 1 minute, and remove to a platter to keep warm. Wipe the skillet clean and repeat until all the fish is cooked.
- Lower the heat on the skillet and add the wine, lemon juice, and fresh rosemary along with the lemon slices. Bring to a simmer and reduce the wine by half, about 5 minutes.
- For serving, add a blackened catfish fillet to a plate and spoon over the sauce along with 2 of the lemon slices. Garnish with a fresh rosemary sprig.
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