Court-bouillon (pronounced Coo-bee-yawn)

My Uncle Cheeky would make this stew regularly.  We would visit the fish market weekly.  People would buy catfish and didn’t want the heads.  We would buy fish for the weekly fish fry and get all the heads they had for free.   

There is some good meat on the catfish.  The head, the collar, the cheeks, and the forehead are no exception.  Try it if you like good taste and flavor you will like the meat on the head as much as you like the meat on the body.

I am gonna share a charming and funny story with y’all.   I have a dear friend; her name is DeDe; she ate this dish with me when we were kids. A couple of years ago, she asked me to make it, BUT when she realized it was made with catfish heads, she said that all right, I don’t want any!  I laughed uncontrollably; I made it for her out of catfish steaks, no heads.

Court-bouillon (pronounced coo-bee-yawn) is a spicy thick catfish stew served with steamed rice and French bread for dipping and sopping. Uncle Cheeky would say, Darlin, the secret to making this gravy is to poach the fish.

4 cups of fish stock, 1/3 cup flour, 1/3 cup butter flavored shortening, 6 slices bacon, 2 medium onion, julienned,  1 cup diced celery, julienned, 1 small green bell pepper, julienned, 3 garlic cloves, minced, 1 ( 14 1/2 ounce can) tomatoes and chilies, 1 (3 oz.) can tomato paste,  1 tablespoon cajun seasoning, 1 tablespoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon ground cloves, 3 bay leaves, 2 tablespoons dried thyme, 1 tablespoon Worchestire sauce, 1 cup frozen cut okra, 1/2 cup frozen lima beans, 1/2 cup dry white wine, 3 catfish heads ( pop out the eyes before you put the heads in the pot), 2 pounds catfish steaks, hot sauce, 1 bunch green onions, 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped,  cooked rice, and lemon wedges.

Let’s make the stock:  1 cup dried shrimp, 1 white onion, 2 celery stalks, 3 1/2 cups water, 1/2 cup white dry wine, fish bones, 2 carrots, 2 sprigs fresh thyme, 1/4 cup fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, 1/4 bell pepper, 4 garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes. Bring to a rapid boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for at least 45 minutes.  Remove from heat allow to steep for 30 minutes.   Strain and set aside until ready to use.

Cut up the bacon slices, dump the bacon into a large, heavy pot, and fry until crispy.  Add the onions, bell pepper, and celery, sauté until the onions are translucent. Lower the heat and add the garlic, thyme, seasoning salt, pepper, tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 tablespoons cayenne, Worcestershire sauce; continue to cook for about 15 minutes.  In a cup, add the flour and 1/3 cup of stock, whisk until there are no lumps.  Add the flour mixture, lima beans, bay leaves, and wine to the pot, stir.  Cover and cook for 30 minutes. Uncover, stir, and taste; add salt, pepper, and hot sauce if needed.  Add the okra the last 10 minutes of cooking.  Pour the stock into a pot, submerge the catfish, make sure the fish is completely covered.  Continue to cook uncovered for 20 minutes or until the fish is cooked. Remove tomato-based mixture from the heat, spoon the poached fish into the pot and 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice remove from the heat and rest for 10 minutes.  Serve with steamed rice, garnish with chopped green onions, lemon wedges, and hot toasted French bread for dipping and sopping.

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