Inspired by the Mississippi Delta, wild food expert Hank Shaw shares his recipe for Catfish Courtbuillon in his new book Hook, Line, and Supper.
This is a lighter, slightly more refined version of the traditional Cajun dish. The sauce reheats well, but the fish needs to be eaten as soon as it’s been sauced. Serve with simple steamed rice.
Servings: 4 people
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small white or yellow onion, minced
2 celery stalks, minced
1 red bell pepper, minced
1 serrano or jalapeno pepper, minced
2 Roma or plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon Cajun or Creole seasoning
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups chicken or seafood stock
5 tablespoons bacon fat or lard
1-2 pounds skinless fish fillets (catfish)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup fine cornmeal, a/k/a “fish fry”(Look for Louisiana plain fish fry)
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup minced chives or scallions
5 to 10 basil leaves, torn up
Lemon juice to taste
Make the sauce. Heat the butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat and sauté the onion, celery, red pepper, and serrano until soft, about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic, tomato, thyme, and Cajun seasoning and let this cook another minute or two, then pour in the white wine and bring to a boil. Let this boil down by half, then add the stock and simmer this uncovered for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and set aside.
In another frying pan, heat the bacon fat. Mix the flour and cornmeal. Salt the catfish fillets, then dust them in the flour mixture. Fry the fish over medium-high heat until nicely browned, about 3 to 5 minutes per side.
Drain any extra fat, leaving only about a tablespoon. Add the sauce to the pan with the fish, add the chopped herbs and lemon juice to taste. Swirl it all in the pan to mix. To serve, carefully lift a fish fillet with a long spatula, or two spatulas, and set on individual plates. Spoon over some sauce and serve with steamed rice