Monday, October 3, 2011

Chef Bolek's Catfish Stew

Recently, I had the urge to make a Creole dish.  I ran through the options in my head ... étouffée, jambalaya, gumbo.  I stood in front of the seafood counter, phone in hand and googling creole recipes.  Ultimately, I decided to do a catfish stew.  The other recipes remained in the back of the mind.  I decided that I would borrow from recipes like étouffée and gumbo by starting the stew with a roux. 

The catfish stew incorporates vegetables such as onions, okra, corn, bell peppers, and celery.  The spices include mustard, oregano, thyme and cayenne pepper.  After all is mixed well, I added some crushed tomatoes and vegetable stock.  The combination of the roux, crushed tomatoes and vegetable stock gave this dish a deep, earthy color that actually looks really good.  Although I consulted a recipe before designing this dish, the end product departed substantially from the recipe.

Overall, I think this recipe worked out very well.  The texture of the catfish worked well in the thick, herb-spiked tomato sauce.  The recipe still needs a little refinement and tweaking, but it is definitely a good start at a catfish stew.

A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 2-3

1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup flour
1 pound of catfish, cut into even sized pieces
1 stalk of celery, sliced
1/2 onion
1 cup okra, sliced
1 bell pepper, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1/2 teaspoon of ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoons of dried thyme
1 teaspoons of Tabasco
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1/4 cup of wine
1 and 1/2 cups of vegetable broth
1/2 can of crushed tomatoes

1.  Make the roux.  Make a roux by heating the canola oil in a large cast iron or heavy bottomed pot over high heat.  Whisk the flour into the hot oil.  It will immediately begin to sizzle.  Reduce the heat to moderate and continue whisking until the roux takes on a deep brown color, about five to seven minutes. 

2.  Saute the onions.  Add the onions and continue to stir with a wooden spoon, incorporating the onions into the roux.  Reduce the heat and continue to stir for another five to seven minutes, until the roux is a rich dark brown.

3.  Add the vegetables.  Add the celery, bell peppers, garlic, and okra.  Increase the heat to moderate and continue to cook and stir for a couple of minutes.

4.  Add spices, tomatoes and liquid.  Add the mustard, thyme and oregano.  Add the white wine and continue to cook until the wine is mostly evaporated.  At that point, add the stock and the tomatoes.  Simmer for a few minutes and add the corn.  Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper. 

5.  Add the fish.  Add the catfish and continue to simmer, which should take no more than five minutes.

6.  Plate the dish.  Spoon some of the catfish, vegetables and broth over rice.


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