Catfish Étoufée

This Catfish Étoufée is a recipe adapted from the cookbook, Jubilee: Recipes From Two Centuries of African American Cooking by Toni Tipton-Martin. It is a cross between Crawfish Étoufée (crawfish smothered in a roux with onions, peppers, celery, and garlic) and Catfish and Gravy. While certain species of catfish are indigenous to West Africa, catfish was also used for slave rations in the Caribbean and United States, as a cheaper alternative to meat. We love the use of catfish in this dish because crawfish isn’t really a thing here in Indiana. Served over a bed of rice, this is comfort food at its finest

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Ready in 30 minutes – Serves 4 portions

To make this recipe you’ll need:

  • 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
  • 1½ 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 2 minutes. Gradually stir in ½ cup of the warm fish stock and the tomato paste and stir until the sauce begins to thicken, about 1 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), 2 to 3 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 2 to 3 minutes, stirring the pan constantly to melt the butter and emulsify it into a rich sauce. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Sprinkle the étoufée with the parsley and serve over rice.

Helpful Tips:

  • If the cayenne pepper is too spicy for you, substitute it with 1 teaspoon of paprika or smoked paprika.
  • Unless you make it yourself, fish stock can be difficult to find. If you are fresh out of fish stock, you can substitute it with vegetable or chicken stock.
  • This dish cooks really quickly, so make sure to have all of your veggies prepped ahead of time.

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