There's nothing better on a cold, rainy night than a bowl of soup. And if that soup has a piece of crispy catfish on top, that's even better! This soup is one of our family favorites and it gave me one more chance to take advantage of the great sale price here locally.
This soup is served in a little different manner. Instead of incorporating the fish into the chowder, the fillet is served on top of the chowder. By placing the piece of fish on top of the chowder, you can spoon right through the fish and into the soup so you get all of the great flavors in every bite. It also allows the fish to retain it's crunchy-crispy texture. The chowder is completed with a spoonful of bacon crumbles on top.
The fillets we used tonight were on the generous side, and the 4 pieces of catfish were plenty for about 6 - 8 servings. We cooked the fillets whole then sliced them in half and the portions were perfect. This is a really great soup to serve kids, too. Even our picky eater always gives it a thumbs up!
1/2 lb Bacon, diced
1 small Onion, chopped
1 small Red Bell Pepper, seeded and diced
2 tsp Minced Garlic
1/3 cup + 3 TB All-Purpose Flour, divided
1/3 cup Cornmeal
1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
2 bottles (8 oz each) Clam Juice
6 medium Red Potatoes, peeled and diced
4 Catfish Fillets, about 1-3/4 lbs, rinsed and patted dry
1 cup Milk
1 cup Half and Half
1 can (8 oz) Whole Kernel Corn, drained
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
1 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Ground Black Pepper
In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan and set aside. Reserve all drippings.
In a large soup pot, over medium heat, combine 2 tablespoons of the reserved drippings, onion, bell pepper and garlic. Saute vegetables until softened, stirring often. Add 3 tablespoons of flour and stir until the vegetables are coated, and flour begins to brown slightly.
Add the clam juice and potatoes to the pot and stir to fully combine the flour mixture. Bring soup to a simmer over medium-high heat, then turn heat to low, cover pot and continue simmering until potatoes are tender and soup has thickened, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to low and keep warm.
Next, combine the 1/3 cup flour, cornmeal and Old Bay on a platter, and dredge the catfish fillets lightly in the mixture. Shake off excess flour and place the fillets on a platter.
Place the frying pan with remaining drippings over medium heat and add 2 pieces of the coated catfish to the pan, but do not overcrowd. (Cook the remaining 2 fillets in a second batch). Cook the fish until golden brown on the first side, then turn the fillets over and continue to cook until fish is opaque and cooked through, about 10 minutes total. Remove cooked fish from pan and keep warm while you cook the remaining fillets.
While the catfish is cooking, you can finish preparing the chowder. Add the milk, half-and-half, corn, nutmeg, salt and pepper to the soup and stir gently to combine. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, just until hot (but do not boil).
Ladle the hot soup equally into 6 - 8 wide soup bowls. Place a catfish fillet on top of the chowder in each bowl and sprinkle with bacon pieces. Enjoy!!