Monday, February 25, 2013

Catfish Nuggets w/Spicy Tartar Sauce

Growing up in Indianapolis, it seemed like there was a fish fry somewhere in town every Friday. There was nothing like freshly fried fish and hush puppies to satisfy your hunger prior to heading off to some form of entertainment for the evening, whether it be a baseball game or a trip to the skating rink. It was at these fish fries that I developed a taste for catfish breaded in cornmeal and cooked until golden and flaky. Nowadays, if I want that flavor, I can recreate it at my house for my family.

For me, nothing goes with catfish like a cornmeal breading. I start by soaking the fish in a mixture of buttermilk and hot sauce, then roll it in cornmeal, and finally fry it in simple vegetable oil until it is crisp and the fish flakes easily.

The sauce for this is essentially a tartar sauce with a couple extra ingredients added to it. To give the sauce a more Cajun flavor, I stir in a little brown mustard and hot sauce. A little squeeze of lemon thins it out a bit and adds a bright, fresh flavor to the sauce. Any extra lemon can be squeezed over the cooked catfish or added to the best accompaniment of all, a glass of sweet tea in a Mason jar.

Catfish Nuggets w/Spicy Tartar Sauce

For fish:
2 lbs catfish fillets
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp Tabasco or sriracha hot sauce
1-1/2 cups cornmeal
2 tsp Cajun seasoning
Vegetable oil for frying

For sauce:
1-1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup chopped pickles or relish
2 Tbsp brown mustard
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp hot sauce

Heat 2-1/2 inches vegetable oil in electric fryer or Dutch oven to 375 degrees F. Rinse fish fillets in water and pat dry. Examine for bones and remove any you find. Cut fillets into 1 to 1-1/2 inch chunks. In small dish, lightly beat egg. Stir in buttermilk and hot sauce. Add catfish and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate and let marinate 30 minutes.

Place cornmeal and Cajun seasoning in large bowl that has a tight sealing lid. Cover and shake to mix well. Remove fish from buttermilk mixture, letting excess drain off and transfer to cornmeal mixture. Replace lid and shake well to coat fish with cornmeal. Let rest 3 minutes.

Drop fish, a few pieces at a time, into hot oil and fry 4-5 minutes, or until outside is crispy and fish flakes easily with fork. Remove to rack to drain. Repeat with remaining fish nuggets, allowing oil temperature to return to 375 degrees F between batches (I wound up with four batches of 6-7 nuggets each). Keep fish warm by placing in a 200 degree F oven while additional batches are frying.

For sauce, combine all sauce ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Serve with fish.


  1. These sound really good, nothing like fresh fish nuggets. Yum!

  2. I'm so glad you linked this recipe! You speak to my southern heart when you use a simple buttermilk wash and then a basic fry, then you went and added a cajun twist. You had me at hello :-)

    These sound fabulous. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!

  3. Love this! I'd like to invite you to link up to Saturday Spotlight @ Angels Homestead.

    Hope to see you there :)


  4. I still cant get over how good these sound and look. Thank you so much for sharing with Saturday Spotlight. Have a great week and come back soon!


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