Fried catfish po’ babies with creole rémoulade sauce recipe

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Diminutive po’ boys, or “po’ babies,” can nicely show off fried catfish fillet curls—the “up-do” flips created during frying. A fine yet rugged crust on this fish keeps the fillets in good shape, as does the paper wrapping, exposing just enough of the sandwich’s innate beauty and flavor while also making it easily portable for tailgating events and picnics. Low-protein cake flour or Wondra yields a crispier crust—always a plus for fried catfish. Just make sure to marinate the fish for 8 hours before cooking. For sandwich wrapping, you’ll need twelve pieces of butcher or freezer paper, cut into 6½-by-15-inch strips, and twelve pieces of ribbon or twine.

  • Yield: 12 Servings about 2 cups sauce

Ingredients

  • Twelve 4- to 5-ounce or six 9-ounce thin-cut farm-raised catfish fillets, halved
  • 1½ cups buttermilk
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon hot sauce (optional, but good)
Creole remoulade sauce
  • 1 to 1¼ cups mayonnaise
  • ¼ to 1/3 cup creole mustard
  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1 or 2 small shallots, minced
  • 1 teaspoon mild hot sauce
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • One 16-ounce bag coleslaw mix (red and green cabbage with carrots)
  • Peanut oil for frying
  • ½ to ¾ cup plain yellow cornmeal
  • ½ cup cake flour or Wondra flour
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cajun seasoning
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika (optional)
  • 12 bolillo rolls
How to Make It
  1. Rinse the catfish fillets and dry using paper towels. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and hot sauce (if using). Place the catfish in a single layer in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish; pour the buttermilk mixture over the fish. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours, turning once. (A buttermilk marinade enhances the flavor of the fish.)
  2. To make the Sauce
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the mayonnaise, Creole mustard, horseradish, parsley, lemon juice, paprika, shallots, hot sauce, salt, black pepper, and cayenne (if using) and stir to mix. Adjust the seasonings as desired. (Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 day.)
  4. In a medium bowl, combine half of the rémoulade and the coleslaw mix; stir to combine. Cover and chill the slaw and remaining sauce at least 1 hour, or overnight, to let the flavors meld.
  5. Let the fish fillets stand at room temperature for 10 minutes.
  6. In an electric fryer, large Dutch oven, or deep cast-iron skillet, add peanut oil to a depth of 2 to 3 inches. Heat to 360°F. (If not using an electric fryer, use a fry/candy termometer to ensure the temperature stays consistent.)
  7. In a pie plate or shallow dish, stir to combine the cornmeal, flour, salt, black pepper, Cajun seasoning, cayenne, garlic powder, and paprika (if using).
  8. Remove the fish from the buttermilk mixture, allowing excess liquid to drip off. Dredge the fillets in the cornmeal mixture, shaking off the excess.
  9. Fry the fillets, in batches of two whole ones or four small portions, until golden brown, turning once, 5 to 6 minutes. (To create fillet curls, place each fillet in the oil so that part of one edge rests upward along the side of a fry basket or skillet; you also can use tongs to hold the curl in place until it’s set.) Remove the fish from the oil with a large slotted spoon.
  10. Transfer the cooked fillets to a wire rack fitted into a rimmed pan. Keep warm, uncovered, in a 225°F oven until ready to serve.
  11. Cut the rolls in half and, if necessary, lightly toast them (brushing the interiors with olive oil or melted butter, if desired).
  12. Add 1/3 cup of the slaw to each roll and top with a catfish portion, curl-side extended. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the remaining rémoulade on the catfish and top with the upper half of the roll.
  13. Place each sandwich at the end of a paper strip, leaving about 1 inch or so exposed (preferably showing the catfish curl); fold up to encase and use invisible tape to seal. Tie ribbon around each wrapped sandwich and serve ASAP.
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