Stephen Stryjewski, Cochon. Stephen and co-owner Donald Link conceived Cochon as a shrine to ultra-authentic Cajun foods. That means using the freshest local ingredients available and making ingredients like boudin and andouille sausage the old-fashioned way in the back of the restaurant. Unlike its French ancestor, a light broth used for poaching, a Cajun-style courtbouillon is a thick sort of fish stew, here made even more delicious by frying the fish first.
2 red bell peppers
2 green bell peppers
2 poblano peppers
1 jalapeño pepper
3 medium tomatoes
1 whole head garlic
5 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, diced (about 1 cup)
6 medium cloves garlic, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
2 cups fish or seafood stock (for testing purposes, we used Kitchen Basics brand)
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
Hot sauce, to taste
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup fresh parsley
4 green onions, sliced
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup self-rising white cornmeal mix
2 pounds small catfish fillets
Hot cooked rice
How to Make It
Preheat broiler. Broil peppers and tomatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet 5 inches from heat, with oven door partially open, about 5 minutes on each side or until blistered. Place in a heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag; seal and let stand 10 minutes to loosen skins. Open bag, and allow to cool. Peel peppers and tomatoes; remove and discard seeds and stems from peppers.
Reduce oven temperature to 400º. Cut off pointed end of garlic head; place on a piece of aluminum foil, and drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil. Fold foil to seal. Bake at 1 hour; remove and allow to cool. Squeeze pulp from garlic cloves, and place in a food processor with peeled peppers and tomatoes. Pulse until roughly chopped and a chunky consistency.
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, and cook until soft and just beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Add chopped raw garlic, and cook 1 minute more. Stir in chopped pepper mixture.
Add stock and vinegar, and bring to a low boil. Simmer, uncovered, 30 minutes or until sauce has a thick, stew-like consistency. Season with hot sauce, salt, and pepper. Stir in mint and next 3 ingredients.
Combine flour and cornmeal in a shallow dish. Season catfish with salt and pepper, and dredge in cornmeal mixture, pressing to adhere. Heat remaining 4 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over high heat, and fry catfish in batches, 3 minutes per side or until cooked through. Transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet, and place in a 200º oven to keep warm.
Place rice on a large serving platter. Remove fish from oven, and arrange on top of rice. Spoon sauce over fish and serve remaining sauce alongside. Season with salt, pepper, and hot sauce to taste.
This is not how we make it here in South Louisiana. It's a much simpler recipe that has been handed down for generations. We don't fry the fish first, but sometimes we do serve it with fried fish. The sauce is a base of butter or oil, chopped onions, garlic, and maybe bell peppers, with a small amount of tomato sauce layered with pieces of fish. It has to be cooked on medium-low and cannot be stirred, just lift the pot from the heat and shake gently every 10 or 15 minutes. It takes about an hour to cook, and it's served over steaming hot rice.
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