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    Catfish Étouffée

    Source of Recipe

    From "Jubilee" by Toni Tipton-Martin

    Recipe Introduction

    "Leonard Roberts's 1969 cookbook, The Negro Chef Cookbook, expressed his pride in the legacy of fusion cooking that occurs when black chefs reimagined humble ingredients, mixed sauces and spices from various cultures, and applied culinary technique in dishes such as catfish steaks with 'green-lime maître d'hôtel butter,' 'Oriental' king mackerel steaks, tuna tetrazzini, and salmon curry. Ethel Dixon's Catfish Étouffée demonstrates that country cooks also performed in the kitchen with that same kind of nimble ingenuity, minus the pageantry. Classic Louisiana country cooking, étouffée is a brick-red roux-based gravy ordinarily swimming with swamp crawdads (crawfish) or shrimp from the bayou and served over rice, but Dixon substitutes mild-tasting catfish. This is a rendition of the catfish and gravy remembered by a former bondservant in Alabama. It combines Dixon's nostalgia for the ancestors' ways with the bottom-feeding fish that were so abundant in Southern streams, rivers, and lakes with Roberts's chefy sauce-making skills."

    List of Ingredients

    ◦ 1 pound catfish fillets, or any other firm-fleshed white fish, cut into 4-inch pieces
    ◦ 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    ◦ ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
    ◦ ½ teaspoon black pepper
    ◦ ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
    ◦ ½ cup vegetable oil
    ◦ 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    ◦ ¼ cup minced onion
    ◦ 2 tablespoons minced green bell pepper
    ◦ 2 tablespoons minced celery
    ◦ 1 teaspoon minced garlic
    ◦ 1 small bay leaf
    ◦ 1 ½ cups fish stock, warmed
    ◦ 1 tablespoon tomato paste
    ◦ 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
    ◦ 2 tablespoons minced green onions
    ◦ 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
    ◦ Freshly cooked rice


    Place the catfish pieces on a plate and dry with a paper towel to help the seasonings adhere to the fish. In a small bowl, combine the cayenne, salt, black pepper, and thyme. Season the fillets with half of the seasoning mixture.

    In a large skillet, heat the oil over high heat until sizzling and nearly smoking. Reduce the heat to medium-high. Gradually whisk in the flour until smooth, being careful not to splatter any of the hot roux on your skin. Cook, stirring constantly, until the roux is medium-brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic, bay leaf, and the remaining seasoning mixture.

    Return to the heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the vegetables are softened, about two minutes. Gradually stir in ½ cup of the warm fish stock and the tomato paste and stir until the sauce begins to thicken, about one minute, then remove from the heat.

    In a separate skillet, heat 4 tablespoons of the butter until sizzling. Add the catfish and green onions and cook until the catfish is opaque (it does not need to brown), two to three minutes per side.

    Transfer the fish, the remaining 4 tablespoons butter, and the remaining 1 cup stock to the skillet with the vegetables and cook for two to three minutes, shaking or stirring the pan constantly to melt the butter and emulsify it into a rich sauce. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Sprinkle the étouffée with the parsley and serve over rice.

    Serves 4




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