Rinse catfish fillets under cold water and place in a shallow baking dish or pan. Add milk to cover fillets. Cover the dish and refrigerate for approximately one hour.
Remove the fillets from the refrigerator about 10 minutes before ready to cook.
Place a large cast iron frying pan over high heat and pour in peanut oil to a depth of approximately 1 inch. Allow oil to come to frying temperature while preparing the fish.
Combine the cornmeal and salt in a shallow pan.
Remove fillets from milk letting most of the excess drip off.
Place one fillet at a time into the cornmeal and turn it several times to coat well. Prepare all the fillets before you begin frying.
Carefully lower the fillets, one at a time, into the hot oil. Don’t crowd the pan frying in several batches if necessary. Turn the fillets when golden brown on one side. Cook on the second side until nicely browned as well. Return the fillets to the first side to cook for an additional minute or two if needed to fully develop a golden brown color.
About the measurements: It was really difficult to write measurements for this recipe since I’ve never measured any of the ingredients. Like many home cooks, I just do what “looks right.” So use the measures as a guideline and add more or take away if you think you need to.About the nutrition calculation: The nutrition calculation on this recipe is probably way, way off. It's next to impossible to accurately calculate the amount of cornmeal that adheres to a fillet or the amount of peanut oil absorbed when frying. Take these figures with a really big grain of salt!Storing fried catfish: This is one thing that I don't recommend storing. It will keep for several hours in a very low oven or at room temperature. But, like most fried foods, fried catfish is best eaten right away. Refrigeration or freezing will cause the crispy fried crust to turn mushy and unappetizing.Suggested side dishes: The traditional sides for a southern fish fry are French fries, coleslaw, hush puppies, and in some areas swamp gravy. And be sure to include the pickles, onions, and lemons I talked about in the post.Substitutions for catfish: If you can't find catfish, you can still have yourself a southern fish fry! Tilapia, cod, and halibut are suitable alternatives.Oil for deep frying: I always use peanut oil for frying fish. Actually, I use peanut oil for any type of deep frying. Peanut oil has a higher smoking point that other oils and doesn't break down nearly as quickly. If you just can't get peanut oil, you can use safflower, canola, corn, cottonseed, or sunflower oil.Soaking catfish: Wild caught catfish has a "muddy" flavor that some people find objectionable. Soaking in buttermilk helps remove that taste. Farm raised catfish tend to have a milder flavor and can be soaked in regular milk.