Let’s Cook with Nikki Cooper: Southern Fried Catfish and Grits

Nikki Cooper in front of a mural

Restauranteur Nikki Cooper in front of one of the Two Jack’s Nik’s Place murals | Photo courtesy Nikki Cooper

We’re inviting some of our trusted nonprofit and Star Chef partners to take over the Bon Appétit blog and share their best tips, recipes, and fun links. This week’s guest curator is Nikki Cooper, the second-generation owner of Two Jack’s Nik’s Place, a family-owned restaurant in San Francisco serving southern comfort food and fresh seafood since 1977. (Read her recent op-ed, On San Francisco’s Black-Owned Restaurants, COVID-19, and the First American Pandemic.) Nikki has worked with Bon Appétit chefs to share her recipes with guests and has read her children’s book, Chocolate Covered Gratitude With Blessings On Top, to our clients’ children both before and during California’s shelter-at-home period. 

Here’s a classic favorite from my restaurant — other mild whitefish fillets will also work.

Fried catfishNikki Cooper’s Southern Fried Catfish and Grits

Serves four 

1 quart vegetable oil
1 pound fresh catfish fillets (about 4 to 6)
1 1/2 teaspoons of seasoning salt such as Lawry’s (or make your own)
1/2 cup fine cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Season fillets with seasoning salt, coating each side. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour and cornmeal. Dip fillets in cornmeal mixture to coat thoroughly. Heat vegetable oil to 370 degrees: a small dollop of batter should sizzle as it hits the pan. Deep-fry fillets until golden brown, turning once or twice.


4 cups water
2 cups grits
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons butter
1/2 cups heavy cream

Bring water to a boil, then slowly stir in grits. Reduce heat to low and cook approximately 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid lumps. Add butter, salt and cream, then stir until mixture thickens to preference.