Caught some catfish (fly fishing for them specifically) and decided to keep them for the table. I didn't fry them this time...
I am a big fan of Cajun cuisine and Zydeco music. I'm a dedicated mud-bug eater of the first order, and whenever I can find my way to a Cajun style restaurant I'm in 7th heaven. But until recently I haven't tried to make any true Cajun dishes myself.
Etoufee is actually quite easy to make, the only trick being to make a good roux. Roux adds flavor and is a thickening agent. Etouffee is a French word for smothered, and the roux does the smothering. Making a good roux is fairly simple, but it takes time and you have to pay attention and stir that whole time, so I guess that's why some find that part difficult.
The ingredients are for the most part healthy and wholesome. The flour and the rice may not be best for everyone. The oil used in the roux might not either - I have seen recipes for a dry roux that I haven't tried yet. A dry roux at least gets rid of the oil.
The rest is all good veggies and fish or shell fish. I made mine with catfish. I've eaten catfish all my life but only one way, battered and fried. I don't recall off-hand having ever eaten catfish any other way. Catfish in an etoufee is wonderful, just absolutely damn good. And it goes great with cold beer or ice tea.
In general terms you make a roux by mixing flour and vegetable oil (the ratio is generally one cup of flour to 3/4 cup of oil or thereabouts - the idea being to create a smooth and silky texture) or butter, or shortening, or lard; and then slowly frying the flour to a darkish brown - or brick red kind of color. Different shades of roux will give different flavors and also different thickening qualities. You'll find most recommend making it in a cast iron pan - the reason isn't the cast iron itself, the reason is that a thick bottomed pan has a more even heat distribution and that helps you to not scorch and ruin the roux.
Once the roux is done you add chopped onions, chopped bell peppers, chopped garlic and in some versions chopped tomatoes - I love tomatoes so I used them, I used canned tomatoes. Saute for a while then add some beef or chicken stock and bring back to a simmer for a while then add catfish cut into 1" cubes and some chopped parsley. Simmer for a while and serve over rice. Exact proportions can be found all over the internet and no two of the recipes you find will match up. Just read three or four recipes to get the general idea and then get after it in the kitchen. This is a dish that should never be the same twice anyway.
Seasoning can be as simple as salt and pepper or you can add heat with various seasonings or you can buy pre-mixed Cajun seasoning and add that or...you really get to do a lot of experimenting with the seasoning. I like simple. I used salt and pepper and a couple of dashes of Cajun seasoning.
All I can say is that if given a chance I'll pass on fried catfish every time now - if I can get it in an etouffee.