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