Cookin’ Blues: Fried Catfish
Cookin’ with the Blues is a 3-part segment featuring three dishes found in Blues songs and are staples in the American South. The dish is a staple in Southern cooking and is inspired by the artists that sang about them.
Catfish thrive in the Mississippi Delta’s soil-rich waters and the channels that branch off it, creating a complex water system where catfish are abundant. Catfish is a staple across the region. According to African American foodways historian Adrian Miller, one of the few proteins slaves were allowed to catch independently without interference. In the United States, African Americans moved out of the South to the North, bringing their fried catfish traditions. Fried catfish often becomes the center of many social gatherings, bringing everyone together to eat, drink, and socialize.
Blues & Catfish
Did you know B.B. King’s favorite food was catfish? He even had two songs featuring the dish; “Saturday Night Fish Fry” and “Catfish Blues (Fishin’ After Me).”
Blues music and catfish have a long history together, possibly longer than we can imagine. Catfish Blues has had many iterations, but the first known recording of this song is from Robert Petway in 1941. However, some of the lines can be traced back to 1928 as a traditional Blues song passed down from musician to musician. Muddy Waters took the piece and covered it for his iconic Rollin’ Stone song in 1956, creating a song with his own unique electric style and sound. Then another legend, Jimi Hendrix, took these same lyrics with his own unique guitar riffs and created Voodoo Chile’, performed at the original Woodstock. The song continues to live on today, with contemporary artists like Gary Clark Jr. covering the song.
While not much is known about Robert Petway, having only recorded 16 songs from 1941 – 1942 before disappearing from the public record, did he return to Mississippi for the rest of his life? Some say he moved to Chicago. We know that his recording created the foundation for individuals like Muddy Waters, B.B. King, and even the Rollings Stones, taking this song out of the Mississippi Delta and into the Blues canon.
To this day, catfish is the main export for Mississippi’s state and the birthplace of Blues music. Let’s getting cooking!
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp seasoned salt up to 2 teaspoons/ taste the seasoned cornmeal and adjust
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp lemon pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
2 large eggs
2 tsp hot sauce
1 lb catfish fillets
Lemon wedges, tartar sauce, and hot sauce for serving
- In a brown bag or Ziploc bag, add cornmeal, flour, salt, pepper, cayenne, lemon pepper, and paprika and shake together.
- In a deep pie plate or large shallow bowl, whisk together eggs and hot sauce.
- Add each filet into beaten eggs on both sides, then add to the cornmeal breading and shake liberally to coat well. Place the fillet on the coated baking sheet. Repeat with each fillet.
- Let fish sit for about 10-15 minutes in the refrigerator, then remove.
- In a large dutch oven, pot, or deep fryer, pour in about 4 inches of oil and heat over medium-high heat until the temperature reaches approximately 340 degrees.
- Working in batches, fry fillets until golden brown, then remove and drain on racks or paper towels.
- Cool for 5-10 minutes, then serves with lemon and chopped parsley.
Now Playing :
Catfish Blues Robert Petway
Rollin Stone Muddy Waters
Louisiana Red Muddy Waters
Voodoo Chile’ Jimi Hendrix
Catfish Blues Gary Clark Jr.
Catfish Blues B. B. King
Catfish Blues Skip James
Catfish Blues John Lee Hooker
Catfish Blues Buddy Guy
Catfish Blues Jimmy “Duck” Hendrkins
Catfish Blues Lightnin Hopkins