Catfish Courtbouillon

My cousin Ali and I made the most scrumptious cajun dish – catfish courtbouillon.  We subbed  snapper for the catfish since Ali had some on hand she had caught.  I don’t say upgrade because I lurrrve me some catfish.  But it was super delicious with snapper, too.

My go-to chef for cajun dishes is John Folse (followed by Donald Link).  His website has so many recipes.  We used his Catfish Courtbouillon recipe with some adjustments.  It is written rather confusingly.  But, it still turned out great!

A cajun courtbouillon is a fish stew that starts off with a roux, to which you add veggies and fish.  Yes, I know “fish stew” does not sound like the kind of dish you are just dying to run out and make ASAP.  But, trust me, this is an awesome, basic, hug your belly kinda recipe.  Served over rice, it is comfort in a bowl.

It is quite pretty, too, especially for the holidays – look at that red and green.

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Ingredients

  • 1 (3-5 pound) catfish – filleted and cut into small pieces of fish, reserving bones and excess parts for stock
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 tbsps chopped garlic
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 can Rotel tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • juice of one lemon
  • 3 bay leaves
  • pinch of thyme
  • 1 cup chopped green onions
  • salt and red pepper to taste
  • Excess ingredients for stock: one cubed onion, one stalk of celery, 2 bay leaves, 1 T peppercorns


Fillet the catfish and cut into two inch square cubes. Place the bones and head in a pot with one gallon of water, one cubed onion, one stalk of celery, 2 bay leaves and a tablespoon of peppercorns. Bring to a rolling boil and cook 30 minutes, skimming the impurities that rise to the surface. Strain and reserve 3 quarts for the courtbouillon.

In a large dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add flour and using a wire whip stir constantly until dark brown roux is achieved – at medium heat.

If you have never made a roux before, it is really quite simple.  Just constantly stir to ensure it does not burn.  If you are making your first roux, just lower the heat.  This will make your roux take longer but will make you less stressed about it burning.  When it becomes that perfect dark brown (darker than peanut butter), it is done.  Have your veggies handy to add once it is perfectly cooked so you don’t get distracted and burn it at this point.  Also, seriously use a whisk.  It helps more evenly stir and prevents splatter – you can get a serious roux burn.  Ask a south Louisiana woman to see her roux burns.  My mom has aplenty.

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Add onions, celery, bell peppers, garlic and sauté until vegetables are wilted, approximately 3-5 minutes.

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Add tomatoes and tomato sauce and continue to sauté. Add fish stock, one ladle at a time, until all is incorporated.  I found 3 quarts was a bit excessive.  You may want to put a little less.  Too much stock was remedied by just boiling it for longer so the stew thickened while water evaporated, but if you don’t have time to let it boil awhile, just add less stock.

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Add lemon juice, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce to simmer. Season to taste – we added some salt, red pepper, and Tabasco.  Allow to cook approximately 30 minutes. Add green onions and season to taste again. Drop cubed catfish fillets into the sauce, allow to cook 3 minutes then remove from heat. Adjust seasonings if necessary.

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Serve over white rice.

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