There's nothing wrong with comfort food. Food should be comforting, shouldn't it? But more often than not, the foods that we find the most comforting are the ones that pack on the most unnecessary calories and fat. We don't think that the price for comfort foods should be that high. That's where the inspiration for this dish came from. The idea for this cornmeal catfish recipe comes from one of the kings of comfort food, Sean Brock, who cooks up soul-rattling Southern dishes at his Charleston restaurant, Husk. Sean has an incredible gift for making food you will crave months after eating: crispy chicken skins with peach marmalade, shrimp and grits with charred peppers, fried green tomatoes topped with pimento cheese and country ham. But what haunts us the most is his catfish with a simple tomato gravy, a recipe from that endless source of comfort food the world over, a grandmother—Sean's, to be precise.
Nutrition: 340 calories, 16 g fat (3.5 g saturated), 500 mg sodium
2 Tbsp rendered bacon fat
2 Tbsp plus 1⁄2 cup ground cornmeal
1 can (14.5oz) whole peeled tomatoes, lightly crushed, juices discarded
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 Tbsp canola oil
1⁄8 tsp cayenne pepper
4 catfish fillets (about 6 oz each)
How to Make It
- Heat the bacon fat in a medium saucepan over low heat.
- Add the 2 tablespoons of cornmeal and continue cooking, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes, until the cornmeal is light brown.
- Add the drained tomatoes and simmer for another 10 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper.
- While the sauce simmers, prepare the catfish: Heat the oil in a large cast-iron skillet or non-stick pan over medium heat.
- Spread the 1⁄2 cup of cornmeal out in a shallow dish and season with the cayenne, plus a few good pinches of salt and black pepper.
- Dust the catfish on both sides with the cornmeal and place in the hot pan.
- Cook, turning once, for 6 to 8 minutes, until the surface is golden brown and crusty and the fish flakes with gentle pressure from your finger.
- Serve each fillet with a big scoop of tomato gravy.
This recipe (and hundreds more!) came from one of our Cook This, Not That! books. For more easy cooking ideas, you can also buy the book!