Blackened Catfish and Smoked Gouda Grits

published Feb 1, 2023
Blackened Catfish and Gouda Grits Recipe

A unique spin to the already popular Southern dish, fish and grits.

Serves4 to 6

Prep15 minutes

Cook40 minutes to 45 minutes

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Bowl of smoked gouda grits and blackened catfish.
Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Stylist: Micah Morton; Prop Stylist: Gerri Williams

I grew up in the South, so my love for remixed classics runs deep. With a vast array of pairings of many different avenues of dishes, some would say the possibilities are endless when it comes to cooking Southern cuisines — fish and grits being one of them. Originating from the recipe of shrimp and grits — which is said to be birthed out of Charleston, South Carolina — fish and grits has become a breakfast and brunch favorite amongst many, and thanks to it being easy, quick, and affordable, has become a staple in my household too. 

As a kid, I would always get excited when my grandmother would prepare her staple fish and grits dish. After a long day of fishing, fighting back pesky mosquitoes, and being on alert for water moccasins with my granddad, we’d come home to gut and clean the fish we caught to be met with the reward of my grandmother’s delicious preparation. For my grandmother’s generation, and many of those before, shrimp and grits (and eventually fish and grits) was a dish of survival. 

While the origins of grits date back to 8700 B.C., Native Americans introduced the dish in the 16th century, with corn stone grits — created through grinding corn into a small mill to deliver a gritty texture — being the main attraction. As the method to prepare grits was passed down through generations from Indigenous Peoples, enslaved people adapted its preparation on the plantations and were the first to pair it with seafood. They were regularly served corn in their rations, and would serve the grits with creek shrimp (shrimp easily caught by hand) without the knowledge of their enslavers. Through time, the dish gained popularity, and has now taken on many forms, including fish and grits.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Stylist: Micah Morton; Prop Stylist: Gerri Williams

Although there are plenty of variations to fish and grits, this blackened catfish and Gouda grits combo is one of my favorites to make throughout the year, as it adds a unique spin on the already-popular Southern dish. Made using a homemade blackened seasoning to add a Cajun flare, this is one recipe that will easily become a go-to in your lineup of low-lift, yet over-the-top recipes. And to be quite honest, it’s one I think my grandmother would be proud to know she inspired me to create.

Blackened Catfish and Gouda Grits Recipe

A unique spin to the already popular Southern dish, fish and grits.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 40 minutes to 45 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 2 cups

    water

  • 2 cups

    heavy cream

  • 2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided, plus more as needed

  • 1 cup

    yellow corn grits, preferably Bob’s Red Mill

  • 1/4 cup

    shredded gouda cheese

  • 1 tablespoon

    smoked paprika

  • 1 teaspoon

    garlic powder

  • 1 teaspoon

    dried oregano

  • 1 teaspoon

    cayenne pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground black pepper, plus more as needed

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    packed light brown sugar

  • 1 1/2 pounds

    catfish filets

  • 1/2 cup

    all-purpose flour

  • 3 tablespoons

    olive oil, divided

Instructions

  1. Place 2 cups water, 2 cups heavy cream, and 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. While stirring, add 1 cup grits. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring every 5 minutes, until the grits are no longer gritty, about 30 minutes or according to package directions.

  2. Meanwhile, grate 1/4 cup gouda cheese on the large holes of a box grater if needed. Place 1 tablespoon smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon packed light brown sugar, and the remaining 1 teaspoon kosher salt in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Pat 1 1/2 pounds catfish fillets dry with paper towels, then cut crosswise into 2 to 3-inch pieces.

  3. When the grits are ready, remove the saucepan from the heat. Add the cheese and stir to combine. Taste and season with more salt and black pepper as needed. Cover to keep warm.

  4. Season the fish all over with enough of the spice mix (about 2 teaspoons) to evenly coat all over. Add 1/2 cup all-purpose flour to the remaining spice mix and stir to combine. Place the catfish one piece at a time in the flour mixture until evenly coated, then shake off the excess flour and place in a single layer on a plate or baking sheet.

  5. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add half of the catfish and cook until browned, crisp, and cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan and repeat frying the remaining catfish. Serve the grits in bowls, topped with the catfish.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftover grits and catfish can be refrigerated in separate airtight containers for up to 2 days.