Catfish with Peanuts, Green Onions and Bacon Pan Butter

Yield: 4 servings

Wine suggestion
A New World Pinot Noir from a cool climate like Oregon: Cameron Pinot Noir "Clos Electric," 1998

It used to be that catfish was served primarily in the South, but more and more northerners now enjoy these fish. Much of this change is, of course, due to the burgeoning industry of wet-farming the fish. Many farmers are finding good profits in this light, white-fleshed, tasty critter.

  • Four 8-ounce boneless catfish fillets, skin removed
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons olive or peanut oil
  • 6 or 7 ounces slab bacon, cut into rectangles 1/4 inch by 1 inch
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, cut into small pieces and kept cold
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 8 green onions, roots and upper green ends removed, cut into rings
  • 1/2 pound raw, unsalted peanuts, lightly roasted, skins removed
  • Lemon wedges, for garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Lightly season the catfish fillets with salt and pepper. Whisk together the eggs and buttermilk in a large bowl and dip the fillets into the egg wash. Mix together the cornmeal and flour, coat the fillets with the mixture, and set aside.

Heat a sauté pan over gentle heat and add the olive or peanut oil and the bacon. Stir often until the bacon is partially cooked. Remove the bacon from the pan, reserve it, and strain the oils into a clean bowl or jar.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Heat a skillet large enough to hold the four fillets without crowding (or use two pans). Add the reserved oil to the pan(s) and allow it to get quite hot, adding more peanut or olive oil as necessary. Lay the fillets in and gently shake the pan. When the fillets are golden on one side, turn them over. Remove any excess fat and put the pan into the oven for about 2 minutes. (If the fillets are thin enough, you can cook them entirely on top of the stove.) Remove the catfish to warm plates with a spatula. Wipe out the pan and reheat it almost to the smoking point. Working quite rapidly, add the butter and then immediately add the lemon juice, green onions, and most of the peanuts, shaking the pan. Swirl the pan evenly over the heat. Gradually, as the butter incorporates, it will become sauce-like in texture.

Pour the sauce evenly over the fish and sprinkle the remaining peanuts and reserved bacon over all. Serve with lemon wedges.

Copyright 1996 by Norman Van Aken