Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I Don't Like Catfish

Kinda weird that I would title my post that and then show you a picture of Fried Catfish, I know.  I've tried catfish twice in my life.  Once as a teenager and last week.

My mother had a great aunt that lived in a small town in Georgia named Aunt Boots.  She was born by the name of Essa Mae Tischner.  When her parents immigrated here from Germany, the immigration officers got the spelling of their last name wrong and they then became the Titshaws.  Aunt Boots got the nickname "Boots" because she always wore red rubber boots as a child.  She was a wealthy peanut plantation widower.  She used to send us cans of boiled peanuts.  I wish I had some now.  She owned the majority of the town, including most of the low-rent housing.  My mother, my aunt and I went there when I was a teenager to visit her. She was really old by that point.  

Aunt Boots has kind of a wacky story.  She got engaged to be married a really, really long time ago.  Her fiance backed out, so she sued him for breach of promise for marriage. This had to be in the early 1900s.  Since most women won the case for breach of promise back then, her fiance, Alex Story, decided that he would marry her.  They lived out their marriage living in separate bedrooms.  Alex was the mayor of Ashburn, Georgia and the sheriff of the county.  Aunt Boots would always take my mother fishing for catfish.  Uncle Alex would take my mother to the jail to look at the prisoners.  One time my mother asked an old man behind bars what he did. The man told her, "they say I stole a chicken, but I didn't steal no chicken."

When we visited Aunt Boots in the mid '80s, she was there in her mansion alone, since Uncle Alex passed away in the early '70s.  Her maid, Rosabel, always wore a red leather baseball cap and wore it backwards.  Aunt Boots fixed us catfish one night for dinner.  It was full of bones, and I hated it.  Aunt Boots was developing a little dementia by then.  She tried to set bacon and butter out the night before to cook the next day for breakfast.  After she went to bed, we cleaned out her pantry and fridge and threw away 30-year-old prescriptions and put the bacon and butter back in the fridge. One day, we got in her big Cadillac and drove around town trying to collect rent from her low-rent houses.  She charged them $8 per week.  Don't you wish it was like that now!  She was truly an interesting character.

Anywho, I had the chance to try catfish again last week.  We bought fresh catfish from the nicest grocery store in town. We breaded it and fried it up.  And everyone LOVED it...except me.  I guess it's an acquired taste.  But I know there are catfish fans out there, so I thought I'd share the recipe with you.  I hope you love it as much as Aunt Boots did.

2 lbs catfish fillets, picked over for bones
2 C cornmeal
1/2 C flour
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 T mustard powder
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Cayenne pepper, to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 T bay leaf powder
1 1/2 C buttermilk
Hot sauce, to taste
Peanut oil, for frying

1 C mayonnaise
1/2 C chopped pickles
2 T finely minced onion
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon garlic powder

NOTE:  The spices and seasonings listed in the catfish ingredients are the ingredients in Old Bay seasoning.  Feel free to substitute a tablespoon or two of Old Bay powder for those ingredients.

For the tartar sauce, whisk all of the ingredients together and chill until ready to use.

For the catfish, mix together all the ingredients from the cornmeal down to the bay leaf powder together in a bowl. Mix the buttermilk with hot sauce to taste in another bowl. Preheat some peanut oil in a large skillet to 350 degrees. Cut the catfish into strips.  Dip the catfish in the buttermilk mixture and then into the cornmeal mixture, pressing down to coat. Fry the fish in batches until browned and done and drain on paper towels.  Keep them warm in a 200 degree oven until all the catfish are done.  Serve with the tartar sauce. 

Try a batch of my Jalapeno Cheese Hush Puppies with your catfish!


  1. Enjoyed your story of your Aunt Boots, I remember your Aunt Jane V. telling us about her as well. Great recipe, Thanks!

    1. You're so welcome! Glad you liked the story. And it is all true.

  2. The town wasn't Thomaston was it?? I had an Aunt Bootsie there!
    And catfish and hushpuppies has always been on our families "Top 10 Favorites" list.

  3. I don't like catfish either. Blarf. But that was a real nice story!