Finding the ideal piece of fish is one of the keys of having that perfect fillet on your table. Make sure the fish is fresh by smelling it. If it smells like the ocean, then it's good to go. Avoid fish that has a "fishy" or chemical odor, they may not be as fresh as you think. If you're looking at whole fish, make sure the eyes are clear as well. Hazy fish eyes means the fish may have sat out too long. You can always have the folks at the seafood counter fillet the fish for you, to ensure clean cuts and minimum bones.
Try to cook your fish within one or two days of purchase, the fresher, the better. Before frying your fish, make sure to let it reach near-room temperature, this way, you don't shock cold meat on a hot pan, allowing for a more delicate texture (same thing applies for steaks too!).
Take a large frying pan and put enough peanut oil (preferred, but you can use vegetable oil as well) to cover the bottom of the frying pan. Heat the oil over medium-high heat. While the oil heats up, you can bread your fish.
Breading your catfish is the easiest part of the dish! I'll let you know my secret to my delicious fried catfish, and it couldn't be easier! My secret to my fried catfish is:
Louisinana Brand Seasoned Fish fry Mix
A little bit goes a long way for this stuff, just bread the fish directly with it. No eggs, no milk, just the breading. The best part is that the cornmeal mix has all the right cajun seasonings in it, so any additional seasoning is completely unnecessary. Make sure you get in the crevices of the fish as well, to ensure maximum crispiness and deliciousness.
Test your heated oil my placing a tiny pinch of the breading mix into the pan. If it has a nice sizzle, you're ready for frying. Gently place the fillets in the frying pan and avoid crowding the pan with fish. Doing so will bring down the temperature of the oil too much, leading to improperly cooked fish. Let the fish cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side, depending on the sizes of your fillets. When you flip the fish onto the round side of the fillet, be sure to let the fish lean to each side (use your spatula if you need to) so that the breading is evenly browned and crisp.
Set aside a shallow dish with plenty of paper towels to let the fish drain after cooking. You can also use a cut up paper grocery sack, or even a cooking rack with either one in lieu of a shallow dish. Allow the fish to drain thoroughy and cool off a bit for about 3-5 minutes and serve to your hungry diners.
There. That wasn't so hard, was it? Remember, you can also use that breading mix for other kinds of seafood as well, I recommend shrimp and oysters too. You can also use my fundamental fish rules for a variety of fish, so don't feel intimidated. Know your fish and create a multitude of delicious and delicate fish recipes!