August is National Catfish Month! Here are Cajun catfish recipes from Lafayette, Louisiana. Some feature New Orleans creole influences. Here are northern versions of catfish courtbouillon, jambalaya, gumbo, catfish poulet and crawfish etouffee.
Catfish courtbouillon is best made with Opelousas or blue catfish. Up north all you can get is channel cat or farm-raised. Choose fillets rather than nuggets which are greasier. To prepare, spray a casserole dish with cooking spray. Arrange catfish fillets in a single layer. Dot with butter or margarine and sprinkle with flour. Make mire poix (“holy trinity) of chopped scallions, garlic, red onions, green peppers, celery and tomatoes. Add finely diced jalapeno peppers, if desired. Pour a can of tomato sauce over fish and vegetables. Season with Cajun spice blend: file, cayenne pepper, hot Hungarian pepper, black pepper, sage, thyme, bay leaf, oregano, celery seed and cumin. Repeat layers until fish is used. Bake until sauce is bubbly and fish is cooked. Serve over rice. Dash with Tobasco Sauce for those who like it hot.
Catfish jambalaya. This can be served with meat, fish or vegetarian. Saute in butter: one pound sliced andouille sausage, one chopped onion, 4 celery ribs, two diced peppers (any color), 5-8 sliced okra pods, one pound of chunked catfish and one pound peeled shrimp (obviously, these are better in Louisiana!) Season with same blend as courtboullion. Cook jasmine rice and toss with meat and vegetables. Serve with fresh chopped tomatoes and diced serrano or habanero peppers. Lighter seasoning lovers–try Tabasco green sauce.
Gumbo: Saute one pound diced chicken breasts and one pound shelled shrimp in butter (traditionalists say to simmer a whole chicken but if you’re in a hurry, this works fine). Add half a jar of roux, one tablespoon Cajun seasoning and one teaspoon gumbo file powder to chicken broth. Add chicken, andouille sausage, and sliced (or frozen sliced) okra pods to gravy. Native Cajun chefs add whole hard-boiled eggs, but they don’t really add much. Fun fact: gumbo is an African word for okra.
Catfish or crawfish etouffee. This can be made with shrimp, catfish or crawfish. This recipe uses the Acadian cooking method called smothering (called reduction in other parts). It means to simmer ingredients in a covered pan. Smother chopped sweet onions, scallions and bell peppers in butter or margarine seasoned with cayenne pepper, garlic, black pepper and file. Add peeled crawfish tails (crawfish look like tiny lobsters; the tail is also the body). Add several bay leaves (remove before serving). Cook on low about 10. Dissolve roux in chicken broth. Roux is pasty and must be thoroughly blended to avoid clumping. Blend with catfish/crawfish mixture. Serve over rice and garnish with fresh bell peppers.
Hot catfish poulet. Typically this is made with chicken but catfish substitutes well. Cut fish in chunks. Slice celery and hot peppers. Season with cayenne peppers, black pepper, oregano, sea salt and Tabasco sauce. Add a jar of peach or mango salsa. Serve over fresh-baked biscuits.
Batter-fried catfish. Rinse catfish fillets and pat dry. Spray with non-stick cooking oil. Mix flour, red and black pepper, salt, oregano, sage and celery seed. Beat four eggs till smooth. Fill another bowl with panko bread crumbs mixed with Italian seasoned bread crumbs. Dredge fish in flour, dip in egg, then dip in bread crumbs. Fry till golden brown and drain on paper towel.