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Try This Blue Catfish Recipe to Help the Chesapeake Bay

Try This Blue Catfish Recipe to Help the Chesapeake Bay

Chef Zack Mills has aimed for environmental balance in his craft for decades, but now with invasive blue catfish potentially threatening a Chesapeake Bay staple, blue crabs, the cook has another item on his menu.

“Throughout my career, I’ve been trying my best to focus only on cooking with sustainable products,” said Mills, executive chef at the Baltimore-based True Chesapeake Oyster Company, in a phone interview. As for the whiskered water giant, which has been served since Mills’ restaurant opened four years ago, he said: “I should be promoting pulling as many of these out of the water as possible.”

Maryland Public Television is set to air a documentary, “Eatin’ Blue Catfish,” on April 20 at 8 pm as part of its Chesapeake Bay Week, and Chef Mills is not the only one advocating for tasting the trophy fish that was introduced into bay waters for recreation during the 1970s.

Joseph Love, program manager of the Freshwater Fisheries Program at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, who sits on a team researching invasive species within the state, said he has both conservation and commercial concerns about blue catfish, which have been shown to eat around one to one-and-a-half blue crabs per day on average.

Blue crab populations have been declining over the past decade while the population of blue catfish has been on the rise.

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Cooking the “blue cat,” as it’s colloquially called, can contribute to bringing balance back to the bay, he says.

“It’s a big part of the solution,” said Love, who holds a doctorate degree, adding that he had some blue catfish in the freezer for his week’s menu.


Love, who studies invasive species for a living, didn’t need convincing to try the “Blue Cat,” but what about the rest of Maryland? That’s where Stone Slade comes in.

He’s the director of seafood marketing at the state’s Department of Agriculture.

“One thing we’ve realized early on is that some people already have an opinion on catfish due to the farm raised catfish that’s kind of got a yellow-tinted plate color to it and a different flavor,” he said. “What we’re going to need to do is get out there and get this blue catfish into people’s mouths.”

Slade’s working on selling it internationally and getting samples of the fish to consumers.

He describes the bay catfish as a white, flaky fish and says major grocery stores in the region are carrying it labeled as Chesapeake Bay Blue Catfish.

“If there’s a yellow tint, kind of a muddy flavor than you’ve been had,” said Slade, “that’s the farm raised.”

He suggested one thing to do is to ask the seafood manager at the store where the fish comes from. Chef Mills says: “They fry up beautifully because it is a firmer fish.”

“We have done it fried, grilled, poached,” he said. “You can cook it almost any way, which is really great, and then it’s just finding flavor profiles each season that work well.”

Mills contributed a recipe for fried catfish sandwich that he says can be tried at home.


Blue catfish filets – 4, around 6 ounces each

All Purpose Flour – 8 cups

Dill pickles, finely chopped – 1 cup

Scallion, finely sliced ​​- ¾ cup

Capers, drained – 4 tablespoons

Parsley, Chopped – 4 tablespoons

Fresh lemon juice – 2.5 tablespoons

Dijon mustard – 4 teaspoons

Tarragon, chopped – 4 teaspoons

Worcestershire sauce – 2 teaspoons

Fresh cucumber slices – 8

Romaine lettuce leaves – 4 each

Place all tartar sauce ingredients into a mixing bowl and fold together until sauce comes together. Place in refrigerator until needed.

In a second mixing bowl, whisk together buttermilk, salt and old bay. Place catfish filets into the buttermilk mixture and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. This can be done up to a few hours in advance.

In a third mixing bowl, whisk together flour and old bay. Once catfish has marinated, remove from buttermilk, and shake off excess. Place into seasoned flour and coat well.

Shake off excess flour and place in a 350 degree fryer. Cook catfish until golden brown and cooked all the way through, roughly 6-8 minutes.

When catfish is properly cooked, drain well and season both sides with salt. To plate, place tartar sauce on both sides of the bun, lightly season cucumbers with salt and place on the bottom bun followed by the catfish. Add lettuce leaf on top of the catfish followed by the top bun.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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