MilkWood's Pan-Fried Catfish in Bacon Vinaigrette Recipe

Excerpted from Smoke & Pickles by Edward Lee (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2013. Photographs by Grant Cornett.


For the vinaigrette

  • 5 Ounces  bacon, cut into 3 thick strips
  • shallot, minced
  • 10 Ounces  seedless red grapes, plus more for garnish
  • 2 Teaspoons  chopped thyme, plus more for garnish
  • 1 Teaspoon  sherry vinegar
  • 1 Teaspoon  creole mustard
  •   Salt and pepper, to taste

For the catfish

  • Four  4-ounce fillets skinless catfish
  • 1 Tablespoon  butter
  • 1 Teaspoon  olive oil
  •   Salt and pepper, to taste

Chef Edward Lee of MilkWood in Louisville, KY creates his own spin on this classic Southern dish. The catfish is fried and then placed in a vinaigrette of bacon, grapes, and mustard, creating a tangy, savory dish that reinterprets the traditional meal. 

Click here to see 24 Southern Dishes That You Need to Know How to Make



For the vinaigrette

Finely dice the bacon and place it in a medium skillet over high heat. Cook until the fat is rendered, about 3 minutes. Add the shallots and stir frequently until  both the bacon and shallots are brown and crispy, about 5 minutes.

Place the grapes in a blender and pulse until they are crushed and juiced but still lumpy, about 10 or 15 pulses. Add the grapes to the skillet. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Add the thyme, vinegar, and mustard to the skillet and turn the heat to low. Stir gently and let simmer about 5 minutes.

Take the pan off the heat and keep warm until ready to serve. 

For the catfish

Season the catfish filets with salt and pepper, to taste. In a large skillet separate from the vinaigrette, heat the butter and oil over high heat.

When the butter begins smoking, place the catfish on the skillet. Cook on one side for 3 minutes then gently flip the catfish and lower the heat to medium. Cook the catfish on the other side until crispy and cooked all the way through.

Ladle a few tablespoons of the bacon vinaigrette into the bottom of warm bowls. Place the catfish over the vinaigrette. Top with fresh thyme and slices of fresh grapes. Serve immediately.  


Calories per serving:

381 calories

Dietary restrictions:

Low Carb Gluten Free, Wheat Free, Egg Free, Peanut Free, Tree Nut Free, Soy Free, Shellfish Free, Alcohol Free, No Sugar Added

Daily value:



  • Fat 100g 154%
  • Carbs 66g 22%
  • Saturated 33g 165%
  • Fiber 6g 23%
  • Trans 1g
  • Sugars 50g
  • Monounsaturated 43g
  • Polyunsaturated 15g
  • Protein 91g 182%
  • Cholesterol 374mg 125%
  • Sodium 1,457mg 61%
  • Calcium 121mg 12%
  • Magnesium 146mg 37%
  • Potassium 2,454mg 70%
  • Iron 4mg 22%
  • Zinc 4mg 29%
  • Phosphorus 1,238mg 177%
  • Vitamin A 126µg 14%
  • Vitamin C 16mg 27%
  • Thiamin (B1) 1mg 49%
  • Riboflavin (B2) 1mg 43%
  • Niacin (B3) 16mg 80%
  • Vitamin B6 2mg 77%
  • Folic Acid (B9) 73µg 18%
  • Vitamin B12 14µg 230%
  • Vitamin D 2µg 0%
  • Vitamin E 6mg 29%
  • Vitamin K 60µg 75%
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