Spicy, intensely flavored jerk seasoning takes especially well to catfish fillets, like these served at Post & Beam restaurant in Baldwin Hills. Use fresh catfish fillets if you can find them, but if not, frozen, thawed fillets work just as well. You can also use tilapia, flounder, trout, or any other thin fillet of white fish.
Fried Jerked Catfish
1 hour, plus 2 hours marinating. Serves 8.
- 8 to 10 large catfish fillets (2 ½ pounds)
For the breading:
- 4 cups panko breadcrumbs
- 2 cups fine cornmeal
- 1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
- ⅔ cup cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon cayenne
For the marinade:
- 2 tablespoons whole allspice
- 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons dried thyme
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
- 6 scallions, thinly sliced
- 2 medium yellow onions, roughly chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 3 Fresno chiles, stemmed and seeded
- 1 habanero chile, stemmed and seeded
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons minced ginger
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
For the herb sauce:
- 1 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- ¼ cup finely chopped oregano
- ¼ cup finely diced shallots
- ¼ cup finely diced Fresno chile (seeds removed)
- 8 garlic cloves, peeled
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons champagne or white wine vinegar
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, plus more
- Make the breading: In a food processor, combine the breadcrumbs and cornmeal and pulse until the breadcrumbs are finely ground. Transfer the crumbs to a large bowl, add the flour, cornstarch, thyme, pepper and cayenne, and whisk to combine.
- Marinate the catfish: In a spice grinder, combine the allspice and peppercorns, then process until finely ground. Transfer to a food processor along with the salt, thyme and nutmeg; then, add the scallions, onions, garlic and both chiles. Process until all the aromatics are pureed as smoothly as possible. Scrape the aromatics into a large bowl and stir in the soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger and olive oil. Add the catfish fillets, toss to coat evenly in the marinade, then cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the catfish for at least 2 hours and up to 4 hours.
- Make the herb sauce: In a medium bowl, combine the parsley, oregano, shallots and chiles. Using a Microplane grater, grate the garlic into the bowl with the herbs. Pour in the olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice and stir to combine. Season the sauce with salt and pepper and refrigerate until ready to serve. The sauce can be made up to 2 days in advance.
- Pour enough oil into a large Dutch oven or deep-fat fryer to come 2 inches up the side. Attach a deep-fry thermometer to the side of the pot and heat the oil to 300 degrees over medium-high heat (or heat the deep-fat fryer to 300).
- Working in batches, lift the catfish fillets from the marinade, gently wiping off as much as possible; then, dredge them in the breadcrumb-cornmeal mixture until evenly coated. Lay them in the hot oil and fry, turning once halfway through cooking, until golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Using tongs or a spider, transfer the catfish to a wire rack, and season with salt while hot.
- To serve, transfer the catfish to plates and top with spoonfuls of the herb sauce.
Recipe adapted from John Cleveland.