Catfish à la grenobloise

Grin-oh-blah. This – apparently – is a classical French dish, but my mom, an East Texas native, used these flavors. So, whether it's bayou or Bordeaux, it's hard to be sure. But it hits the spot if the idea of a brown butter sauce with lemon and capers makes your heart flutter.

As a tribute to an easy-to-get and not-too-fishy fish, I'm using catfish instead of sole, skate, or another steaky white fish. You can totally use this recipe on those fish too though.

To get a nice crust on the fish, I dab each fillet with a touch of all-purpose flour. You do not want to eat the skin on a catfish: the word "bottom-dweller" is an insult for a reason. (If you're gluten free, see what I say about poaching fish here. It'll work on any fish.)

A waxy potato – think red potatoes or new potatoes over a russet – makes the perfect vehicle to catch any sauce that's leftover on your plate. Trust me - you're going to want to scarpetta this.

This recipe serves two people.


What you need

1/2 lb pound small, waxy potatoes, like red potatoes, new potatoes or white potatoes

1/2 lb catfish fillets, skin-removed

1/4 cup all purpose flour

Salt, to taste

Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

3 tbsp olive oil (1 tbsp for potatoes, 2 tbsp to cook fish)

Juice of 1 small lemon

1 tbsp capers

4 tbsp butter

1 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

How to do it


In a large pot, add potatoes and fill pot with cold water until the potatoes are just covered. Place on stove and, over high heat, bring water to a boil. Once the water hits a boil, lower the water to a simmer and cook until you can stab the potatoes through to the center with a fork, about 10-15 minutes. Drain the potatoes, toss in a tablespoon of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and set aside in a warm place before serving.

The perfect time to chop the parsley, juice the lemon and flour the catfish? While the potatoes cook.

Catfish fillets

Spread flour evenly on a large dinner plate. Lightly coat each side of the fillets in the flour, and shake off any excess flour. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Add olive oil to a large sauté pan over high heat. When the oil is hot enough – when you flick a drop of water into the pan and it sizzles immediately – add fillets.

Drop the heat to medium-high, and cook for about 3 minutes on each side – you're looking for a firm texture and dark golden color.

Remove fillets from heat and allow to rest on a rack while you prepare the brown butter sauce, below.

Brown butter sauce

Grab a few paper towels and carefully wipe out any remaining olive oil from the large sauté pan.

Over high heat, add butter, and cook for about 2 minutes or until the butter is a deep golden brown and smells nutty.

Add capers and lemon juice, and whisk until combined.

Remove brown butter sauce from heat and whisk in parsley.

To serve

Place a serving of potatoes and fish on a large dinner plate and spoon sauce over base of the plate. Eat immediately.

Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days, but will never, ever be as good as the first 20 minutes that you made the dish.