Pecan Catfish with Banana Pepper Sauce

Main Courses > Seafood/Fish

1 cup (4 oz/125 g) pecan halves, plus extra for garnish
1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) mayonnaise1 shallot, chopped
1 banana chile, seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped sweet pickle relish
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
juice of 1 lemon
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
6 catfish fillets, about 6 oz (185 g) each
1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) buttermilk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon Tabasco or other hot-pepper sauce
1/2 cup (2frac12; oz/75 g) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 cup (5 oz/155 g) yellow cornmeal
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
peanut oil for deep-frying
lemon wedges

1. To make the sauce, preheat the oven to 400° F (200° C). Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and toast, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and aromatic, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool.
2. In a food processor, pulse 1 cup (4 oz/125 g) of the cooled pecans just until they resemble a coarse meal. Do not over-process. Remove all but 1/4 cup (1oz/30 g) of the pecan meal and set aside. Add the mayonnaise, shallot, banana chile, pickle relish, dill, lemon juice, salt and pepper to the food processor. Pulse until well-blended but still somewhat chunky. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover and refrigerate until serving.
3. Line a baking sheet with parchment (baking) paper. Rinse the fish fillets and pat dry with paper towels. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs and Tabasco. In a separate shallow bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, reserved pecan meal, salt and pepper. Drop each fillet into the buttermilk mixture, then coat evenly with the cornmeal mixture, shaking off any excess. Set aside on the lined baking sheet.
4. Pour peanut oil to a depth of 1 inch (2.5 cm) into a large, heavy frying pan and heat to about 360 °F (180 °C) on a deep-frying thermometer. Working in batches if necessary, fry the fillets, turning once, until golden brown and opaque throughout, about 3 minutes on each side. Using a slotted spatula, transfer to paper towels to drain. Keep warm until all the fillets are cooked.
5. Transfer to warmed individual plates. Garnish with lemon wedges and pecan halves. Pass the chilled sauce at the table.


Mississippi is the catfish capital of the world, raising more of this low-fat, firm-textured whitefish than any other place. Here, typical Southern ingredients – buttermilk, cornmeal, pecans and banana peppers – complement the fish.