Big lips, wiry whiskers, a questionable lifestyle: The catfish is like that distant uncle at your family reunion—peculiar-looking, a little shady, and uninspiring at mealtime. Relegated to the culinary backwaters as a bottom feeder, even deemed unkosher for its scaleless body, the fish with the Fu Manchu mustache was long snubbed by everyone except poor folks because of its murky habitat and muddy flavor. But these days the whiskery one's image problems have been greatly improved by new digs (man-made ponds) and a better diet (grain-based feed). As a result, its mild, sweet flavor and flaky white flesh have made it the fifth most popular type of fish in the U.S. Texas does its part by consuming more catfish than any other state in the nation. This August, observe National Catfish Month by trying out these irresistibly crunchy filets from chef Mansour Gorji at Addison's Canary Cafe. As Mark Twain once said, "The catfish is a plenty good enough fish for anybody."
1/2 day-old baguette or 1/2 loaf rustic Italian bread
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
5 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 boneless, skinless catfish filets
1 tablespoon butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse bread into crumbs in a food processor. Mix with the salt and pepper and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Cook on an ungreased baking sheet until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool, then pulse in a food processor until a little coarser than cornmeal.
Rub fish with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and thinly coat with breadcrumbs. Sauté over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes per side in remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter. Serves 4.