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HOOKED ON EAST TEXAS: Cooking your catch

Crappie or catfish, we've got a breading that will please.

TYLER, Texas — You've been fishing all summer, your catch is frozen in the freezer and now it's time to have a fish fry. We've got a recipe that's sure to be a hit at your neighborhood gathering where fish is the main dish. 

We headed to Big Sandy to Circle M Crawfish where Chef Abbie gave us the tips and tricks for mouth-watering catfish. We spent the morning in the prep kitchen learning the paces of prepping the fish before it even hits the frying pan or deep fryer.

We prepped two kinds of fish. One with a regular breading and the second had the same breading, but this time we dipped it in buttermilk, twice!  

Chef Abbie wouldn't give away all the ingredients to Circle M favorite that's been around for more than two decades.

"The first one we’ve used for 26 years. It’s a secret recipe. Flour, corn starch, and corn meal," Chef Abbie said.

We soaked the fish in ice water until the fish filets were chilled. Then using sanitary gloves, we put the cold filets in the breading. We knocked off some extra breading and then we pressed it firmly into the mixture. 

Chef Abbie explained, pressing the fish into the batter does something special, "it kinda creates a bond and you’ll see how as I go to flip it, it’s sticking right to it." If you want to take your filet game up a notch, Chef Abbie recommends making the fish, double-buttermilk,  and battered. 

“And then we’re going to make one that is a little more like your grandma would have made it. Using our batter and we’ll use this buttermilk here and show you how to make real southern style fried fish," Chef Abbie said as she properly demonstrated how to dip the fish in the buttermilk, then into the mixture, back into the buttermilk and then back into the mixture. 

She showed us how to sprinkle the mixture onto the fish, making sure there are no clumps because clumps do not fry well. Here are some tips of the trade. 

Let your oil heat to 350-degrees. If you don't have a cooking thermometer, Chef Abbie says you can sprinkle a couple drops of water into the oil and if it crackles it's ready. But remember just a couple drops of water because water and oil do not mix. Chef Abbie told us to let the fish cook for about two minutes and then flip it. Let it cook for another two to three minutes or until the tongs you're using do not cut into the fish. Overall, the fish should take between three and five minutes to cook. Chef Abbie shared the recipe for the breading, not Circle M's secret recipe but one you will really enjoy. 

Chef Abbie’s Southern Catfish

Serves: 4

Time: 25 minutes


•    4 Catfish fillets (1 lbs. total)

•    2 cup High heat oil (Canola, Vegetable, or Peanut)

•    2 cups Yellow corn meal

•    1 cup Self-rising flour

•    1 cup Buttermilk

•    2 Tbsp. Cajun seasoning (Tony’s or Geaux works best)

•    1 Tsp salt

•    1 Tbsp. Black Pepper 


Catfish Prep:

1.    Pat individual catfish fillets with a paper towel till dry.

2.    Place Fish in a Ziploc bag and pour buttermilk over the top of fillets. Coat well; allow fish to sit in fridge for 10 minutes.

Batter Prep and Frying Instructions:

1.    In a Large mixing bowl add: Cornmeal, self-rising flour, salt, pepper, and Cajun seasoning. Mix together with a whisk. (a fork will work just fine)

2.    In a cast 10 in Skillet (Cast Iron works best!) Pour oil and set temperature on medium heat. Allow to heat to 350F degrees. 

3.     While oil is heating, take fillet from zip-loc and coat in fish batter. Make sure you are gently pressing mixture to adhere to the fish. Turn fillet over and coat the same way. Repeat with all fillets.

And here's the recipe for a great tarter sauce. 

Chef Abbie’s Tartar Sauce

Serves: 4 (2oz)

Time: 7 minutes

Tartar Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Heavy Mayonnaise
  • 3 Tbsp. Dill Relish
  • 1 Tbsp. Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. Black pepper
  • ½ Tbsp. Lemon Juice
  • ½ tsp Onion powder
  • ½ tsp Garlic powder
  • ½ tsp Salt


  • In a large mixing bowl add: Mayonnaise, Dill relish, Sugar, Onion powder, Garlic powder, Black Pepper and salt.
  • Fold it rubber spatula or wooden spoon (metal can affect the flavor)
  • Add lemon juice and fold once more. This step must be done last and folded gently. Lemon Juice can curdle your mayo if a mixer is used.
  • Enjoy with Catfish!

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