Catfish fillets are stuffed with a savory mixture of cornbread, onions, celery and succulent shrimp. Top them with a crispy golden brown mixture of buttery Panko breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese.
This post is sponsored by Heartland Catfish. The opinions contained within are my own.
There is a saying here in the South: “Catfish is king.” These whiskered, freshwater fish have a face possibly only a Southerner could love. But bring them along to a good old-fashioned fish fry and they’ll end up the life of the party.
Is catfish healthy?
We’ve all heard the benefits of adding more fish to your diet. Catfish may not be the first fish that comes to mind. Turns out, catfish is high in protein and low in fat and calories. It’s loaded with amino acids that promote heart health.
One serving will provide you with 40 % of your recommended daily allowance of vitamin B-12, which is essential for red blood cell formation and metabolism. Good news for expectant mothers too – catfish is low in and perfectly safe to eat during pregnancy.
What to look for when choosing catfish fillets from the store.
In the last several years, I have become very shrewd when it comes to the fish I feed my family. I am a firm believer that you get what you pay for, not just catfish, but any type of fish.
The first thing I look for is country-of-origin. Since 2005, large retailers are required to use country-of-origin labeling (C.O.O.L.) so consumers will know where their fish came from and if it was wild caught or farm-raised. I only purchase U.S. farm-raised catfish. Here’s why …
- Fish imported from foreign countries aren’t held to the same strict quality standards as U.S.- based fisheries. There are no regulations monitoring the condition of the ponds the fish are raised, how the fish are transported and if the processing facilities are clean.
- 99% of imported seafood is never tested or inspected. Of the small percentage that is tested, 10% contained unsafe traces of drugs that are banned in the U.S., such as formaldehyde and certain antibiotics. Ingesting this fish could lead to food poisoning, allergic reactions, antibiotic resistance and cancer.
- Fraud among fish and seafood imports is rampant. It is not uncommon to find a less desirable species of fish being marketed as something it’s not. The label might say catfish, but there is no guarantee that’s what you’re actually buying.
Why U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish is the Better Choice
Ninety-four percent of the farm-raised catfish sold in the United States comes from just four states – Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama and Louisiana. Since 1980, my own state of Mississippi has led the U.S. in catfish production. Catfish farmers in the United States, like Heartland Catfish in Itta Bena, Miss., are monitored under very strict government regulations.
Why choose Heartland Catfish?
- Heartland Catfish uses sustainable, environmentally safe farming practices. The fish are raised in closely monitored freshwater ponds and are hormone free.
- Their catfish are transported live to the processing plant. The fish are cleaned, processed and prepared for packaging in less than 30 minutes! It doesn’t get much fresher than that.
- It’s common knowledge that an animal’s diet can affect its flavor. Wild catfish are traditionally bottom feeders, which give them a muddy, undesirable flavor. Heartland’s farm-raised catfish are fed a strict diet of high-quality feed that floats on the top of the water, giving them a light, clean flavor. In fact, Heartland employs a full-time taste tester to monitor the flavor for consistency.
Fresh vs. Frozen Fish
Heartland Catfish fillets are sold both fresh and frozen. Fresh fish are immediately packed on ice to be shipped out as fresh product. Since I live less than 100 miles from Heartland’s processing plant, I am able to pick up a package of fresh fish whenever I want right from my grocery store.
However, not everyone has access to freshly caught fish straight from the ocean or pond. Contrary to popular belief, frozen fish can be just as high quality as fresh. Heartland frozen fish fillets are individually quick frozen (IQF), which means they are frozen at a temperature of 40 degrees below zero (brrr!). This quick-freezing method preserves not only the taste, but also the quality of the fish.
How to Make Shrimp Stuffed Catfish Fillets
Sure, the most popular way to eat catfish is to dredge it in some cornmeal and deep fry it. But catfish is so much more versatile than that! For this recipe, I got creative with my mother-in-law’s cornbread dressing recipe and developed a shrimp stuffed catfish dish that is not only tasty, but elegant enough to serve to guests.
Make the cornbread stuffing
You’ll need about two cups of cooled and crumbled cornbread to start. I made up a batch of my homemade skillet cornbread and used half. You can use store bought to save some time.
Melt two tablespoons of butter in a large skillet. Add ½ cup of diced celery and onion. Cook the veggies until they are tender. This will take about 10 minutes. Season the veggies with a little salt and pepper. Once they are tender, remove them from the heat and allow them to cool.
Next, combine the crumbled cornbread with ½ slice of torn day old bread. No one in my house likes the ends of the loaf of bread … I just use that! Add ½ – ¾ cup of chicken broth, then mash the heck out of it until it’s ground up and soupy. I find a potato masher works best here.
Stir in one slightly beaten raw egg, ½ cup uncooked, diced, peeled and deveined shrimp and one large slightly beaten raw egg. Season with salt and pepper – ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ of ground black pepper suited me, but you may want to add more or less to suite your taste. The dressing can be made a couple of days ahead of time and stored in the fridge until you’re ready to use.
Stuffing the catfish fillets
Look closely at the fish fillets and you’ll notice one side is slightly darker than the other. Lay four Heartland Catfish fillets, dark side up, on a flat work area. Season each with salt and pepper. Carefully spoon about three tablespoons of the cornbread stuffing down the center of each fillet, stopping about one inch from either end.
You should also notice one side of the fillet is thick while the other end tapers off. Starting at the thick end, gently roll the fillets up. Secure the tapered end with a toothpick. Season the outside of the fillets with salt and pepper.
Dredge in breadcrumbs and bake
Melt two tablespoons of butter. Add ¼ cup of panko breadcrumbs and stir until the breadcrumbs are coated with the butter. Stir in ¼ cup of grated Parmesan cheese until combined. Spread the breadcrumb/cheese mixture into a pie plate or similar flat dish.
Dredge the top of each catfish roll in the breadcrumb/cheese mixture. Place the fillets in a greased casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes until the fish is opaque and the breadcrumb topping is golden brown. I like to sprinkle a little fresh parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice over the top before serving.
How to store shrimp stuffed catfish fillets
Unbaked catfish fillets can be assembled and then frozen for later. I would recommend wrapping each fillet in a layer of plastic wrap, then foil and freeze them that way. You can also arrange unbaked fillets on a baking sheet, place them on a flat surface in the freezer and allow them to freeze solid. I prefer using a vacuum sealer to individually freeze each roll. Shrimp stuffed catfish fillets should be eaten within three months for optimum flavor.
Leftover baked stuffed catfish fillets should be stored in the refrigerator within two hours. They will keep in the fridge for up to three days. I don’t recommend freezing previously baked fish. In my experience, it diminishes the texture.
What to serve with shrimp stuffed catfish fillets:
More Catfish Recipes:
- Blackened Catfish with Creole Sauce
- Sauteed Catfish Fillet with Creole Mustard Sauce
- Skillet Grilled Catfish
- Southern Fried Catfish
- Lemon Pepper Catfish Fillets
Shrimp Stuffed Catfish Fillets
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter divided
- 1/2 cup finely diced celery
- 1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion
- 2 cups crumbled cornbread
- 1/2 slice day old bread torn
- 1/2 cup chicken broth plus more as needed
- 1 large egg slightly beaten
- 1/2 cup peeled and deveined uncooked shrimp diced
- 4 Heartland Catfish Fillets
- 1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- In a medium skillet, two tablespoons of melt butter over medium heat. Add the celery and onion and sauté for 10 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and set aside to cook slightly.
- Combine the cornbread with torn bread in a medium mixing bowl. Pour in chicken broth. Using a potato masher, begin mashing the bread mixture – adding additional broth as needed – until the mixture is slightly soupy.
- Mix in the egg, diced shrimp and cooked vegetables. Stir until all ingredients are well combined. Season with salt and pepper.
- Lay the catfish fillets, dark side up, on a flat work area. Season each with salt and pepper. Carefully spoon about three tablespoons of the cornbread stuffing down the center of each fillet, stopping about one inch from either end.
- Starting at the thicker end of the fillet, gently roll the fillets up. Secure the tapered end with a toothpick. Season the outside of the fillets with salt and pepper.
- Melt the remaining two tablespoons of butter. Add ¼ cup of panko breadcrumbs and stir until the breadcrumbs are coated with the butter.
- Stir in ¼ cup of grated Parmesan cheese until combined. Spread the breadcrumb/cheese mixture into a pie plate or similar flat dish. Dredge the top of each catfish roll in the breadcrumb/cheese mixture.
- Place the fillets in a greased casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes until the fish is opaque and the breadcrumb topping is golden brown.
- Garnish with fresh parsley and a drizzle of fresh lemon juice if desired.