Oct 22, 2008

One Fish, Two Fish, Redfish...Courtbouillon

Courtbouillon (COO-bee-yahn) is a dish popular in and around New Orleans. Many New Orleanians enjoy catching redfish, so why not? Redfish was made extremely popular and mainstream in the early 80s by Chef Paul Prudhomme’s decision to burn...er, blacken it. Blackened redfish became a craze, and while I will admit that it is tasty, I do think it greatly contributed to the over fishing of redfish. The Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana (CCA) (formerly GCCA) took actions to stop the over fishing in the mid 80s. Blackening fish is neither Cajun nor Creole cooking. There was a time when if a Cajun “blackened” fish, it would be tossed to the dogs.

Back to Courtbouillon. Redfish isn’t the only fish that can be used. Any firm white flesh fish will work. There are also different techniques for making this dish. My dad makes his in a baking pan in the oven. I prefer to use a pot on the stove top...my oven heats up the kitchen way more than I’d like. The disadvantage of cooking this in a pot is that the fish can break apart easily. If using a pot, make sure your sauce is thickened to your liking before adding the fish and don’t boil or stir it after the fish go in.

I started cooking Courtbouillon when I was first married. My husband’s grandfather was a commercial fisherman along the
Atchafalaya River. Most of his customers wanted catfish, but that wasn’t always what he was able to catch. Often, he would catch gaspergou (we just call it “goo”), an unattractive fish with an even uglier name and a freshwater relative of redfish. Old Pop Pop would give us the goo he couldn’t sell. Goo was considered second rate to some. But Courtbouillon is a great application for it.

The obviously-French word courtbouillon means “short broth.” In traditional French cooking, courtbouillon was a broth of vegetables, herbs, and wine or lemon juice, used to poach
shellfish (usually) or fish. In South Louisiana, courtbouillon is much more brash and robust—made with tomatoes and often thickened with a roux. Courtbouillon here is a bold stew rather than a fancy-pants broth, a classic Creole dish with ties to French and African ancestors. Note to self: one day I really have to discuss the difference between Creole and Cajun cooking.

Redfish Courtbouillon
from Ms. enPlace

1/2 c vegetable oil
1/2 c flour
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
about ¼ c minced garlic
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 quart warm water or stock
about ¼ c Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp salt, or to taste
¼-½ tsp black pepper
¼-½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
¾ c chopped green onions, divided
½ c chopped parsley, divided
juice of ½ small lemon
2-3 pounds redfish fillets, or other firm white fish
cooked white rice

Make a brown roux in a cast iron or stainless steel pot using the flour and oil. Add the oil and flour to your pot, on medium high heat. Cook them together, stirring constantly.

When the roux is the color you’d like, add the chopped onions, celery, bell pepper and garlic. Cook until the vegetables are tender. Add the can of tomatoes plus juice and cook in the vegetable mixture for a few minutes. Next, add 1 qt of warm water or stock (I like to use warm liquid so the roux doesn’t separate), and Worcestershire sauce. Season with salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, dried thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Simmer for about 40-45 minutes, adding more liquid if needed.

Toss in ½ c green onions, ¼ c parsley, and lemon juice. Taste the sauce for seasoning and adjust. Gently add the fish and do not boil or stir. Simmer fish for about 10-15 minutes, depending on thickness. Serve the courtbouillon over rice and garnish with reserved green onion and parsley.

I like to start with a roux, but not everyone starts this way. Look here to see how to make a Louisiana style roux.
Roux is used to thicken sauces, soups, stews, etc. It is made with some type of fat (oil, butter) and flour. There are several different techniques and ratios. I like to start with equal parts of oil and flour and go from there.

Stir, stir, stir.

And stir some more. I guess it's more like scraping. I like to use a spatula with a flat edge and scrape along the bottom of the pot. Normally, I'd use a cast iron pot, but I wanted a shallow pot for this recipe to help keep my fish intact.When the roux is the color you'd like, add the chopped vegetables to temporarily stop the cooking process. There's nothing better than the smell of onions & bell pepper cooking in a roux. Absolutely nothing.

Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are tender.

Add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes, then add warm water or stock. I use warm (or even hot) liquid so my roux doesn't separate. I didn't stand there stirring it all that time just to ruin it now.

Add the seasonings, bring to a boil, then simmer for close to an hour. Add more liquid if too much cooks away.

Is the sauce as thick as you'd like? If not, simmer longer. If it is, carefully add the fish. Don't boil or stir after this point or the fish fillets will break apart and that would be a shame.

Serve over cooked rice and top with green onions and parsley. This Redfish Courtbouillon was served with Corn Maque Chou (Mock shoo).

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1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11/18/2008

    Just linked to your blog from "Cooking for Your Family" and I love it! Can't wait to try the Courtbouillon.



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