If it’s Friday night, it must be cooking time! (And yes, I do tend to focus most of my culinary energies on weekends and holidays.)
Tonight I made an old family classic that is perfect for those fall evenings with just a nip in the air: Catfish with Mustard-Dill Sauce. This is an easy recipe that takes all of maybe 20 minutes to make, start to finish. (Probably not even, if the catfish fillets are small and/or thin.)
So, let’s start!
Make sure to assemble your ingredients on the counter before cooking. Here’s what you’ll need: about a pound of catfish fillets, cut in roughly similar weight pieces, Dijon mustard, cream (or half-and-half or full milk or buttermilk), dill (fresh or dried), salt and pepper,
and (off-camera) extra-virgin olive oil and butter. Oh, and about half a cup of white wine. (I used Virginia Chardonnay, naturally.)
Next, salt and pepper the fillets to taste. (I used sea salt and a pepper grinder because we like both a little coarse.)
Heat a large pan over medium-high heat, then add the olive oil and then the butter. (Cook’s tip here: putting in the olive oil first, before the butter, helps keep the butter from burning.)
When the butter has melted, add the fillets, skin-side down. Sauté until the skin starts to get crispy along the edges. (Crispy is good.) Then flip to the other side.
When the fillets have cooked on the top side and have nicely browned, remove from heat. (It’s tough to give a precise time here because a lot depends on how thick the fillets are. So cook them until they are definitely opaque. That said, I’m the first to admit, it’s a fine art. Don’t cook catfish enough, and it tastes gummy. Cook it too much, and it’s like tough rubber. I’d say, in general, maybe 6-7 minutes total cooking time over medium-high heat, both sides combined.)
Next, pour in the white wine to loosen the pan drippings. Let the wine reduce by half which will take several minutes, depending on how hot your burner is. Here you see those lovely pan drippings sizzling away while the wine evaporates and reduces.
Next, add two generous tablespoons of Dijon mustard.
I love Dijon mustard, whether it’s smooth mustard or whole-grain. The French use it so much that it’s even in their vocabulary. There’s a saying: “La moutarde me monte au nez,” which means “I got angry!” And if you’ve ever swallowed a spoon of French mustard, you’ll understand! But I digress…
So, next add about half a cup of cream (or half-and-half or whole milk or buttermilk or even plain Greek yogurt). Also add dill, perhaps two teaspoons of dried dill or four of chopped fresh dill.
Then stir it in until blended. At this point, you’ll want to adjust it to taste, maybe adding a bit more mustard, maybe a bit more dill, maybe a bit more cream. Regardless, make sure it’s well-blended. Sometimes I use a whisk to make sure the sauce is nice and smooth and, in the case of this recipe, a lovely golden color.
Slip the fillets back into the sauce, warm them for 30 seconds, then flip them over to coat the top sides with that lovely mustard sauce.
And then serve! Save the sauce to pour over the fillets or over potatoes, either baby potatoes or potato wedges.
We had this tonight with a wonderful medium-bodied kissed-by-oak Virginia Chardonnay, the 2012 Cedar Creek Chard. (It is nothing like the over-oaked California Chards, trust me.)
Absolutely delightful food pairing.