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September 07, 2010

Fish of the Month - domestic farmed catfish

Rightbite-blog September’s Fish of the Month is domestic farmed catfish.

There are 39 known species of catfish in North America, only one of which we farm commercially: the channel catfish. In the wild, channel catfish can live up to 40 years and grow to weigh nearly 60 pounds. They’re a freshwater species, thriving in clear water habitats with coarse sand or gravel bottoms. Channel catfish are omnivores, which mean they eat both plant food (such as algae and seeds) and animal food (such as snails and crawfish). They detect their food visually, but also have taste buds all over their bodies!

Channel catfish is one of the most commonly farmed fish species in the United States, generating the most volume and revenue of all domestically farmed fish. It’s an important industry in the southeastern U.S., particularly in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Arkansas. Channel catfish are farmed in closed, inland ponds. Those are a much more environmentally friendly alternative to farming fish in the open ocean, where pollution, escape and disease transfer often occur. Plus, because channel catfish are omnivores, they’re fed a primarily vegetarian diet instead of fishmeal – thereby minimizing the need to catch wild fish to feed farmed fish.

Channel catfish is one of the most popular seafood items in the U.S., thanks to its sweet, mild taste and firm texture. It readily absorbs other flavors, making it a great seafood to experiment with in the kitchen! For true culinary inspiration, I suggest heading to Big Jones, one of Shedd’s sustainable seafood restaurant partners. Big Jones’s chef and owner, Paul Fehribach, has some amazing catfish entrees on the menu. At brunch he offers Mississippi farmed catfish paired with cheesy grits, eggs and cornbread. For dinner he kicks it up a notch, offering catfish with a green curry broth and popcorn rice. (The Right Bite team has tried both dishes and can vouch for their tastiness! Save room for dessert too.)

You can also try catfish at home. Pick some up from your nearest Whole Foods Market and try Shedd’s quick and easy recipes below: Cornmeal-Crusted Catfish with Pecan Butter Sauce and Grilled Catfish Tacos with Peach Salsa

Cornmeal-Crusted Catfish with Pecan Butter Sauce
Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients:

1 cup organic milk
4 U.S. farmed catfish fillets (about 6 ounces each)
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon blackened spice mix
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon organic butter
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ cup finely chopped pecans
¼ cup finely chopped parsley

Directions:

1. Place milk in small bowl and add catfish, turning to coat.

2. In another bowl, combine cornmeal, spices, salt and pepper. Dip catfish fillets into cornmeal mixture, pressing to adhere crumbs.

3. Heat olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add catfish fillets and cook until coating is golden brown and crispy and fish is opaque in center, about 2 1/2 minutes per side.

4. Remove catfish from pan and set aside; add butter to pan and reduce heat. When butter just begins to foam, add lemon juice, pecans and parsley, stirring. Cook until golden (but do not let burn!), season with salt and pepper to taste, and remove from heat.

5. Pour sauce over catfish and enjoy warm.

Grilled Catfish Tacos with Peach Salsa
Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients:

4 U.S. farmed catfish fillets
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
8 corn tortillas

Salsa:

2 cups ripened peaches (about 1.5 lbs), peeled & diced
3/4 cup red bell pepper, diced
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
½ cup onions, diced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons peach preserves
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
*Optional garnish: Thinly sliced red cabbage, green onions, sour cream or avocados

Directions

1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat. To prepare tacos, whisk oil, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, jalapeno, cilantro, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Place catfish in medium dish and pour in mixture to thoroughly coat fish. Cover and marinate for 15-20 minutes in refrigerator.

2. Mix salsa ingredients in bowl and season with salt and pepper.

3. Place marinated fish on grill. Flip fillets after 4 minutes and cook second side for 2-3 minutes until opaque and flaky. Remove and let rest for 5 minutes. Flake into pieces with fork.

4. Warm the tortillas on grill for 10 seconds on each side. Split the fish among the tortillas and top with salsa, cabbage, sour cream, onions or avocados.

Posted by Kassia Perpich, conservation

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I love farmed catfish. It's really affordable, easy and quick to prepare and good for the planet. I usually make fish tacos or po' boy type sandwiches. YUM!

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