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Catfish Courtbouillon

Catfish CourtbouillonCatfish Courbouillon (Usually served w/rice, see below.) I know, I know... the fork is upside-down. We’re pretty casual chez moi.

The word “courtbouillon” literally means “short boiling,” and is pronounced here in south Louisiana as COO-bee-YON (the N at the end is silent). It’s basically a tomato-based, roux-thickened stew used to poach firm-meated fish like catfish, redfish or even large sac-a-lait (crappie/white perch). There are several variations of this dish, and the recipe I’m sharing here is firmly rooted in Louisiana Cajun and Creole tradition and has only a little in common with its European French ancestor.


I didn’t grow up eating a lot of courtbouillon because my Dad, Don, who was born and raised in the North Louisiana towns of Tannehill and Winnfield, felt like cooking fish any other way than fried would be wasteful. And to tell you the truth, my favorite way of eating catfish is Southern Fried, too. But this dish, which my mom adored, is pretty doggone good. Usually it’s served over white rice (as most Cajun dishes are), but I decided to serve it with potatoes for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted this dish to be a tribute to my mom and dad, and since I knew Dad wouldn't have really cared for fish cooked this way, the least I could do was include a couple of sides that he was really fond of, hence the new potatoes and green beans. Secondly, I kind of think of all these ingredients going together since usually when I catch catfish this time of the year my green beans and new potatoes from the garden are ready for a first “sneak harvest.” With the unseasonably cold weather we're having this year, my first harvest is still a few weeks away, so I had to break down and resentfully buy the potatoes and beans this time. But it was still satisfying to cook this dish with fish that I caught (along with my brothers and nephews in last weekend’s camping trip) while using green onions, rosemary, and parsley from my garden. Another great side for this would be Corn Maque Choux (see my recipe posted after last year's corn harvest), but my sweet corn won't be ready to harvest for several weeks.


Note: The catfish I used this time were blues, but a lots of folks prefer to cook it with les goujons cailles, also known as Appaloosa Catfish or Spotted Catfish. This recipe serves 2-4 adults, depending on how hungry you are. I really never measure any of the ingredients, so the following is just an approximation that should be close enough. Adjust to your tastes accordingly.

Catfish Courtbouillion Recipe

About 1.5 pounds catfish fillets, cut into pieces about 3 inches square and seasoned to taste with Cajun seasoning (I prefer Tony Chachere's) and lemon-pepper. (I used two fillets taken from a catfish that weighed about 4 pounds undressed.)

2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1/4 stick of butter
1/2 large onion, chopped
3/4 bell bell pepper, chopped
1/2 stalk of celery, chopped
1 can of stewed tomatoes (or fresh ones from your garden, skinned and roughly chopped, if you have them)
3 cups of water or stock (chicken or seafood)
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
2 heaping tablespoons of prepared roux
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 sprig of rosemary, chopped**
1 bay leaf
2 cloves of garlic, minced


** Mom wouldn’t have used rosemary in this becuase we never had it on hand. I just so happened to plant some this year and thought this would be a good way to use it. Added a nice touch, but not neccessary.

Cooking Directions:

Clean and rinse your fish fillets, season generously with Cajun seasoning and lemon pepper, and set aside.


Heat oil and butter in a cast-iron skillet until butter is melted, then add onions, bell pepper and celery and sauté until well wilted (about 5 minutes). Add garlic, half of the chopped green onions, the stewed tomatoes and about a cup of water, along with a good dash of salt and pepper. Slowly add in roux, stirring constantly. When all the roux is added, the mixture should have a stew-like consistency. Add the bay leaf and rosemary and cook for about 20 minutes, adding water/stock as needed to maintain desired consistency. Once the tomatoes are completely broken down and all ingredients are well incorporated, add the fish and lower the heat to a light simmer. Cook gently for about 20 minutes, being careful not to stir too much as that would break up the fish. Garnish with the remaining green onions when serving.

Serving Suggestion:

Typically this is served over white rice, but's it's also good with new potatoes in a white milk/flour/butter sauce. (I'll have to post that simple potato recipe later.) Green beans and/or corn maque choux make great sides, and don't forget the garlic bread!

Hope you enjoy!

Scott Long





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