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Nicole Fondulis | Bluebonnet EC

1 packet ranch dressing mix (4 ounces), divided use
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup mayonnaise
Handful fresh cilantro leaves, rinsed and dried
1/2 jalapeño pepper, stemmed and seeded
Juice of 1/2 lime, or more to taste
Peanut or vegetable oil, for frying
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup finely chopped Texas pecans
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
Pinch salt
Ground black pepper
4–6 tilapia fillets

Spicy Ranch Drizzle
1. Pour the ranch dressing mix into medium bowl, setting aside 1 teaspoon for dry mix. Stir buttermilk and mayonnaise into the dressing mix.

2. Combine the cilantro, jalapeño and lime juice in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Stir the cilantro mixture into the dressing, and then transfer the dressing to a jar and refrigerate until well chilled.

3. Heat oil in deep fryer (or 1/2 inch of oil in a large skillet) over medium-high heat until it reaches a temperature of 340 degrees.

Wet Mix
4. While the oil is heating, whisk together milk, flour, paprika and baking powder in a pie tin or a rectangular dish large enough to hold a flat fillet.

Dry Mix
5. Combine garlic powder, chopped pecans, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper with the remaining teaspoon of ranch dressing mix in a gallon zip-close bag and set aside.

6. Working with one fillet at a time, dredge the fish in the wet mix and then transfer to the dry mix and shake until well coated. Use your fingers to press the dry mix onto the fish. Use tongs to remove for less mess.

7. Fry 1–2 fillets at a time in the hot oil about 5–8 minutes, turning as needed for even cooking, until golden and flaky. Use tongs to place the hot fish on a plate lined with paper towels or a brown bag to absorb excess grease.

8. Drizzle the hot fish with Spicy Ranch Drizzle, or serve it on the side for dipping.

Makes 4-6 servings.