We moved to Clewiston, Florida when I was in the 4th grade. One of the first things my momma did was find a place to buy channel catfish. We went to an old houseboat that seemed ready to sink any minute. I remember my momma telling the man that she wanted "sharpies" small catfish, about the size of a man's hand. She could be bossy, when she needed to be, and told him not to dare slip in any "mud cats". She must have been pleased with his fish, as we shopped there at least once a month for catfish. Last year, 50 years later, I drove through Clewiston on the way to West Palm Beach and the houseboat was still there with a sign that said Catfish for Sale. I could not believe my eyes.
Momma had two electric frying pans that she set up in the carport on folding tables to fry the fish. Daddy, couldn't stand the smell and she didn't want to heat up the house. I loved those catfish fry nights. I got to eat my fill of dill pickles to with no questions asked. We would always have company over to eat- various and odd friends, from the president of the US Sugar Corporation to momma's teacher friends, to hunting buddies of daddy's.
By the time I was married, catfish fillets seemed to be the in thing - We lived in Americus, Georgia and would often get catfish from Lake Blackshear. They would be large and my husband would filet them. He could also cook some mouth watering fish. His secret was hot sauce and peanut oil. This is his recipe that we used on everything from catfish, to grouper, to mullet. I know that he will send his blessings down that I am sharing it with you.
Fried Southern Catfish
Around 12 catfish fillets
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 (2 ounce bottle) hot sauce
2 cups self rising cornmeal mix
Sprinkle filets with salt and pepper; place in a shallow dish. Add the hot sauce to fillets, turning to coat. Cover and chill for several hours
Pour peanut oil to a depth of about 3 to 4 inches in a large and deep skillet; heat over medium heat to about 375 degrees.
Place cornmeal mix in a large zip-top plastic freezer bag. Add fillets, one at at time; shake until coated. A large paper grocery paper bag can also be used for this step. Fry fillets, in batches, around 4 minutes per side or until golden brown. Drain on a paper bag covered platter. Sprinkle extra salt over fried fish. Serve with lemon, cocktail sauce, tartar sauce, or ketchup. We always just used ketchup for catfish.