Catfish Courtbouillon

4.73 from 18 votes
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A platter of catfish courtbouillon.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

I’ve eaten catfish six ways to Sunday, but Louisiana Chef Don Link’s catfish courtbuillon takes the prize, hands down.

I had heard of catfish courtbuillon, pronounced something like “coo-be-YON,” for years, but, well, was kinda unimpressed. Then I sat at the bar at Cochon, in New Orleans. As I was working my way through the menu, I saw catfish courtbuillon. If any place would make a good version of it, it’s Cochon.

So I tried it. And was blown away.

Courtbuillon as I knew it was a sort of homey, one pot gumbo-like thing, with chunks of catfish floating in a vaguely tomatoey stew. This was not that. Chef Link’s version features a fillet of catfish, fried in cornmeal, sauced with everything in the traditional catfish courtbuillon — tomatoes, peppers, onions, celery, garlic, herbs — and served alongside simple steamed rice.

Somehow there was still a bit of crunch to the breading on the fish, and the sauce was light, bright and just a shade zippy with cayenne and lemon. Of all the wonderful things I ate that night, this was the most memorable, because it shouldn’t have been, but was.

Thankfully Chef Link published his recipe in his excellent book Down South: Bourbon, Pork, Gulf Shrimp & Second Helpings of Everything. My version only slightly differs. I didn’t want to mess with perfection.

A bowl of seafood gumbo

Seafood Gumbo

Looking for another Cajun seafood classic? Try my seafood gumbo.

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Catfish is of course traditional, as is gaspergou (freshwater drum), but you can make courtbuillon with any fish you can get a skinless fillet from. Some good regional alternatives would be speckled trout, walleye, smallmouth bass, black seabass, Pacific rockfish, sand or Calico bass, snapper or snook.

A word of warning: If you use commercial Cajun seasoning, don’t add any salt to the dish until the end; chances are you won’t need it, because those spice mixes are very salty to begin with.

catfish courtbuillon recipe
4.73 from 18 votes

Catfish Courtbuillon

This is a lighter, slightly more refined version of the traditional Cajun dish. See above for fish substitutions if you don't have catfish. The sauce reheats well, but the fish needs to be eaten as soon as it's been sauced. Served with simple steamed rice.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Cajun
Servings: 4 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients 

Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small white or yellow onion, minced
  • 2 celery stalks, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, minced
  • 1 serrano or jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 2 Roma or plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun or Creole seasoning
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or seafood stock

Fish

  • 5 tablespoons bacon fat or lard
  • 1 to 2 pounds skinless fish fillets
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup fine cornmeal, a/k/a "fish fry" (Look for Louisiana plain fish fry)
  • 1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup minced chives or scallions
  • 5 to 10 basil leaves, torn up.
  • Lemon juice to taste

Instructions 

  • Make the sauce. Heat the butter in a large frying pan over medium high heat and saute the onion, celery, red pepper and serrano until soft, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic, tomato, thyme and Cajun seasoning and let this cook another minute or two, then pour in the white wine and bring to a boil. Let this boil down by half, then add the stock and simmer this uncovered for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and set aside.
  • In another frying pan, heat the bacon fat. Mix the flour and cornmeal. Salt the catfish fillets, then dust them in the flour mixture. Fry the fish over medium-high heat until nicely browned, about 3 to 5 minutes per side.
  • Drain any extra fat, leaving only about a tablespoon. Add the sauce to the pan with the fish, add the chopped herbs and lemon juice to taste. Swirl it all in the pan to mix. To serve, carefully lift a fish fillet with a long spatula, or two spatulas, and set on individual plates. Spoon over some sauce and serve with steamed rice.

Nutrition

Calories: 746kcal | Carbohydrates: 37g | Protein: 63g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 229mg | Sodium: 227mg | Potassium: 1715mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 3130IU | Vitamin C: 61.6mg | Calcium: 95mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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15 Comments

  1. A+++ the legend Hank Shaw does it again, with another fine reinterpretation of a classic dish. Loved everything about it.

  2. Just noticed the pic depicts “the trinity” (colors are super beautiful and popped), taste is whole another universe, thank you, really caught my eyes, been cooking this type of dish living in La. Have to try your recipe, again thx. Happy angling and cookin… HS.

    1. I made this tonight and it was INCREDIBLE!! My sauce came out very watery and thin. Is this normal? I followed it exactly. The flavor was spectacular!

  3. Holy mother of tasty! Used some creek trout and wow. It was fresh, bright, delicious over steamed rice. For real! Make. This.

  4. Fantastic recipe and easy to follow! I used some catfish my six year old caught, and he loved it. Can’t wait to catch some more and make it again!

  5. I was tired of the same meals over and over so I try different recipies this one blew me away I used Talapia it was awesome and I wanted more and more I will truly make this courtbullion again soon delicious thanks

  6. This was a great use of leftover catfish from a weekend fish fry. I just crisped the fish in the oven before placing in the sauce. My toddlers asked for it again the next night! Thanks for another great recipe, Hank.

  7. We made the courtbullion using fresh caught speckled trout and used the ingredients that we grew in our garden and some purchased from the store. The result was amazing! We will be making this dish for years to come. It was a simple dish to create and substituting components to individual taste is easy.

  8. I grew up eating catfish courtbouillon, and this simplified, “cleaner” version is perfection! The frying in bacon fat makes it special!

  9. This is very different than the catfish courtbouillon I’ve always made, and I’m looking forward to trying it.
    Also very much looking forward to your seafood cookbook!

    1. Eatie: Yep, it is pretty different, which is why I love it so much. A little more refined, without being “cheffy.”

  10. I am giving it a five before even giving it a bash. The recipe is divine, butter, wine, serrano, thyme, garlic and lemon and fresh fish. The food of gods. Thanks Hank, again.