Fried catfish is a Soul Food staple found not just across the South, but across America. This favorite is flaky and tender on the inside, crunchy and slightly spicy on the outside. Soaking the catfish in buttermilk for a short time adds a tangy flavor, and if you whisk in a little hot sauce you get an extra layer of heat that can’t be beat!
Place the catfish strips in a large shallow dish and pour the buttermilk over the top (if using the hot sauce, whisk the hot sauce into the buttermilk first). Turn the strips to make sure they are coated in the buttermilk. Allow to marinate for at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour.
Mix the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, dry mustard and cayenne together in a large shallow dish.
Fill a large (10- or 12-inch) skillet with vegetable oil to a depth of 1/2 inch and heat over medium-high heat until very hot: A pinch of the cornmeal mixture should sizzle when it hits the oil.
Remove the catfish strips from the buttermilk and discard the buttermilk. Let the excess liquid drip off the strips before dredging. Dredge the catfish strips in the cornmeal mixture until evenly coated, shaking off the excess.
Carefully lay the first strip into the hot oil, then add as many strips as can comfortably fit into the pan without overcrowding; you want to keep an inch or so of space between each piece. Fry the strips until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side, then transfer the strips to a wire rack to drain. Repeat with the remaining strips, adding more oil if necessary (be sure to reheat the oil if you add more).
Sprinkle the catfish fingers with Lemon Parsley Salt and serve with lemon wedges.
Lemon Parsley Salt:
Place the parsley leaves on a plate covered with a paper towel. Microwave on medium-high heat in 30-second intervals until the parsley dries out (but retains color), about 2 minutes depending on your microwave.
Blend the salt with the lemon zest and parsley leaves in a spice grinder or blender until fine. Makes about 1/3 cup.