Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Cornmeal Crusted Catfish with Silky Red Bean Puree

It’s hatch chile season, and that’s a great time of year. The hot and mild green chiles arrive in Austin direct from Hatch, New Mexico and much to my delight. I had an idea about cooking up a whole lot of red beans with freshly roasted hatch chiles and then using the beans a couple of different ways. The first meal was cornmeal crusted catfish with silky red bean puree. I previously wrote about the amazing food found in Susan Spicer’s Crescent City Cooking, and this meal is included in the book.

I chose a combination of hot and mild hatch chiles, roasted them on the stovetop, peeled off the char, and seeded and chopped them. The red beans soaked overnight and then were simmered with just water for a few hours. Once the beans were cooked, I set about adding all the flavor-packed items. If I had followed Spicer’s instructions exactly, chipotle and poblano were supposed to be added to the beans along with garlic, onion, tomato puree, chile powder, and bay leaves or bouquet garni. I used hatch chiles instead of the chipotle and poblano. After cooking with the added ingredients and becoming delicious, some of the beans were pureed in a blender with some cooking liquid and lime juice. Because the starchiness of the beans seems to absorb a lot of flavor and heat, the puree can be seasoned aggressively. I repeatedly tasted the beans and then the puree and continued to adjust the seasoning as I went. In the end, I think I should have included the chipotles too. Hatch chiles offer their own unique character, but the puree did lack that special, smoky quality that chipotles bring.

The only slightly negative comment I can make is that, unfortunately, this puree is not the most photogenic food item. It looks a little like a pile of brown mud sitting under the catfish. But, regardless of its humble appearance, the flavor was fantastic. The smooth texture made it like a thick sauce, but one with none of the heaviness or guilt of butter or cream.

The catfish was dredged in a cornmeal and flour combination which was seasoned with cumin and coriander. It was fried quickly in butter and canola oil. The catfish fillets then rested atop the silky puree and received a sprinkling of chopped chives. I was already a big fan of red beans, bean purees in general, and catfish, but this was a great meal. You really can’t go wrong with cornmeal crusted catfish, and served with this puree as sauce, the flavors are southwesternish by way of New Orleans. Interesting, bold flavors and hints of spice are delivered via contrasting textures.

What happened with the rest of the red beans? The next day, we grilled hatch chile chicken sausages and served them with the amazing red beans and some cajun popcorn rice. I have a feeling Hatch chile season is going to seem too short this year.


  1. I love the idea of the red bean puree. Cornmeal-crusted: point me to it. This looks like a great meal.

  2. A fabulously tasty dish! Interesting! I've never eaten catfish...



  3. Thanks! The red bean puree is so good, and you can easily tweak the ingredients to make it as spicy or not as you like. Catfish is really delicious while mild in flavor, and it's on the Eco-best list:

  4. i'm afraid i'm not a fish fan, but frankly, i'd pour that red bean delight right down my gullet--it sounds sensational! :)

  5. Definitely give the red bean puree a try--but don't leave out the chipotle like I did!

  6. That looks like a tasty meal! I like the sound of breading the fish with cornmeal.

  7. They look perfectly fried ... hey the puree looks good to me ;) lovely dish :)

  8. Looks great. Brings back memories of childhood when my day and I would go fishing all the time and he would make catfish for dinner.

    Thanks for coming by my blog today as well. I will be back for more of yours!!



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