Recipe for Catfish Cakes with Come Back Sauce

Photo courtesy of Oxmoor House

Walk into any Southern kitchen and you’re bound to find a well-loved (and well-seasoned) cast-iron skillet. And chances are that skillet came from Lodge. The family-owned company has been making cast-iron cookware in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, since 1896. While the benefits of cast-iron are well known—it’s darn near bulletproof and unmatched in retaining and distributing heat for even cooking—the folks at Lodge have come out with a new cookbook that may give even cast-iron vets a few new tricks to try.

With contributions from notable Southern chefs, cookbook authors, and home cooks, The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook: A Treasury of Timeless Delicious Recipes contains some 200 recipes covering everything from skillet breakfasts to cakes and pies, campfire cooking, and even an entire chapter devoted to cornbread (twenty-seven different kinds). For a great take on a classic, check out Nannie’s Catfish Cakes with Come Back Sauce, from Elizabeth Heiskell of the Viking Cooking School in Greenwood, Mississippi. The cakes are a great use for leftover fried catfish, and the legendary Come Back Sauce, which originated at the Mayflower Café in Jackson, Mississippi, pairs perfectly with just about fried-anything.

> Order a copy of The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook.

Nannie’s Catfish Cakes
serves 4; makes 8 (2 ½-inch) cakes

1 sleeve premium saltine crackers
2 tbsp. butter
1⁄4 cup finely diced onion
1⁄4 cup finely diced yellow bell pepper
1⁄4 cup chopped green onions
8 fried catfish fillets
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 tsp. Tabasco sauce
4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1⁄4 cup olive oil
Come Back Sauce (see recipe)

Place the crackers in a food processor and grind to crumbs; pour crumbs into a shallow bowl.

Melt the butter in a medium cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and green onions; cook, stirring often, until tender.

Place the catfish fillets in a medium bowl and use your fingers or the back of a fork to mash them into bits. Add the beaten eggs, Tabasco, and Worcestershire; season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the onion mixture and stir well. Pat the catfish mixture into 8 cakes about 2 ½ inches wide and 1 ½ inches thick. Gently dredge the cakes in the cracker crumbs, coating well on both sides.

Heat a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. Gently place the catfish cakes in the hot skillet and cook, in batches, until golden brown on both sides. Drain on a paper bag and serve with Come Back Sauce.

Come Back Sauce
makes about 1 ¼ cups

This sauce originated at the Mayflower Cafe in Jackson, Mississippi, where it was the house salad dressing. It got its name because diners kept "coming back" for it. Come Back Sauce pairs well with any kind of fried food (try fried green tomatoes) and also makes a tasty dip for cold boiled shrimp.

1 tbsp. grated onion (using the large holes of a box grater)
1 cup mayonnaise
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. prepared chili sauce
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and stir well. If the sauce is too thick to drizzle, add 1 tbsp. water to thin.  Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.