Saturday, March 1, 2008

Easy Catfish Gumbo

If you didn't make it down to New Orleans for Mardis Gras this year, you can transport yourself there with this quick and easy catfish gumbo. I found this recipe somewhere online and have adapted it to my tastes (read: less oil, more hotsauce!). This is a hearty, filling stew that is quick and easy to make, tastes great and is full of healthy protein and lots of vegetables. It is also remarkably low in calories, coming in at about 157 calories per cup. For proper gumbo flavour you are going to want to get ahold of some gumbo filet , a seasoning that is made of the powdered leaves of sassafras, a shrub or small tree that grows all over the eastern half of this country. Most supermarkets will carry it in their spice aisle, but depending on where you live, your best bet may be to purchase it online. The flavour is hard to describe, and the dish still tastes good without it, but for many people its not real gumbo without the filet.

Okra is also a non-negotiable item for die-hard gumbo fans, in fact the name "gumbo" is derived from an African word for okra. If you choose to omit it, at least have the decency to call the result "catfish stew" instead of gumbo. The celery, onion and bell pepper are sometimes refered to as the "holy trinity", and regardless of whether you are using catfish, sausage, chicken or crawdads, any gumbo worth its salt must contain those three vegetables. After that you can experiment as you like. Feel free to change up the spices, toss in some fresh parsley or use a different kind of protein (you could probably even make a tofu gumbo, but chicken and sausage are other popular options.) You could also use a mixture of seafood instead of the catfish. Shrimp or squid would be equally good.

Easy Catfish Gumbo

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1/2 cup diced celery

1/2 cup diced onion

1/2 large green bell pepper

1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes

3 oz tomato paste

5 oz frozen or fresh okra, chopped

1-1/4 cup chicken, beef or vegetable broth

1 lb catfish fillet, cut into bite sized chunks

1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper

1 to 1-1/2 tsp cajun seasoning

1-1/2 tbsp flour

1 tsp garlic salt or 1/2 tsp salt and one minced garlic clove

1 bay leaf

A splash (or three) of hot sauce. Tabasco is traditional.

1 to 1 -1/2 tsp gumbo filet powder


1. Combine the black pepper, garlic salt, cajun seasoning and bayleaf. Set aside.

2. The original version of this recipe does not call for making a roux, or a browned mixture of flour and fat, but to do a gumbo the way its done in Louisiana, you will want to do so. However, making a roux takes a bit of extra time, so I am going to give you two options at this point, one which is more traditional and "authentic" and one which is faster. To make a roux, sprinkle the flour into the oil and stir over low heat until the flour-oil mixture browns. Then add the celery, onion and pepper, sautee and proceed as explained below. This can take about 20 minutes, unless you cheat by inching the heat up. The fast option is to heat the oil over medium low heat, toss in the celery, onion and pepper and sautee briefly, then stir in the flour a little at a time and proceed with the recipe. Do whichever you feel like, either way it will be good.

3. After the onion, pepper and celery have had time to sautee for a few minutes, add the tomatoes, tomato paste and okra, the mixed seasonings, and the hot sauce. Mix everything together, bring to a boil and then let simmer for about 30 minutes to allow the flavours to blend.

4. Add the catfish to the pot and simmer for about 20 minutes until the fish is cooked through. Stir in the filet gumbo powder and serve with crusty french bread or over rice.


Anonymous said...

You insult Cajuns with that stuff!

Lyra said...

I'm sorry you feel insulted anonymous. I know this isn't a traditional gumbo recipe, but it is tasty, filling and easy to make: three good reasons, I think, to give it a try. Just call it "Easy catfish stew with okra" if the idea of calling it gumbo sticks in your craw. I hope you will give it a whirl even though it isn't the real Cajun deal-and maybe you could send me a few authentic recipes to try:)