Diving deep into a bowl of Redfish Courtbouillon is an exploration of the spicy side of Louisiana’s culinary culture. It is a saucy and richly flavored dish that doesn’t hold back on taste. This recipe delivers a heavy wallop of deliciousness in a Magnalite pot.
My friend Lee Robicheaux grew up in Houma, Louisiana at the southern reaches of Acadiana. Houma is bayou country, and the coastal community is steeped in fishing tradition where fresh seafood is readily available. He learned to cook his family-style, one-pot dishes at an early age, and his heritage of coastal seafood is at the heart of his recipe repertoire.
To understand the differences in South Louisiana food culture, the cuisine of his roots in Houma are very different than Lafayette, just 100 miles to the north. In the northern reaches of Acadiana, ingredients focus more on chicken, beef, pork, sausage, and smoked meats with rice-and-gravy-culture being the norm. Lee told me he had never eaten smothered round steak growing up in Houma, but it is now a staple dish for him.
Lee’s redfish recipe is a hybrid between a courtbouillon and a sauce piquante. So, what is the difference? Thank goodness I compiled a Cajun and Creole dictionary that you can access here on the blog. But let’s delve deeper into the subject. To fill a Cajun pot, you have endless variations on these five classic dishes: gumbo, etouffee, bisque, sauce piquante, or courtbouillon.
A Louisiana courtbouillon ((coo bee YON) is classic Creole in origin, and the technique heralds from the French culinary method of poaching seafood, usually redfish or catfish. Here in Louisiana, a highly spiced, red tomato-based gravy is most frequently seen. Flavor develops with the browning of aromatic vegetables and sausage and the addition of tomatoes, stock, and a dark Cajun roux. While it might sound like gumbo, the rich, fiery, tomato flavor defines a courtbouillon in a class of its own.
A well-made courtbouillon can vary in recipe details depending on the tastes and flavor preferences of the cook. And the ingredients are endless: catfish, garfish, turtle, frog legs, and alligator meat show up in some classic renditions of courtbouillon. So, get out your Dutch oven and fire up the burner to explore the spicy side of cooking with my recipe version of Redfish Courtbouillon—a Louisiana classic.
- 4 pounds redfish fillets
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 cups diced yellow onion
- 2 cups diced green bell pepper
- 2 cups diced celery
- 1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 cup chopped ripe tomatoes
- 1 (10-ounce) can mild diced tomatoes and green chiles, drained, such as Rotel
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 4 cups seafood stock
- ½ cup dark roux
- 2 cups sliced smoked pork sausage (optional)
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
- 2 cups diced green onion tops
- Dash of hot sauce
- 6 cups cooked Louisiana long-grain white rice, such as Supreme
- Inspect the fish fillets for any pin bones and remove. Cut into bite-sized pieces and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- In a large Dutch oven or cast-iron pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat, add the oil along with the onions, bell pepper, and celery. Cook until the onions turn translucent and add the parsley and garlic. Season with white pepper, paprika, and cayenne. Add the tomatoes, Rotel, tomato paste, and honey, and stir. Add the stock and stir in the roux until dissolved and the pot begins to boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and add the sausage and bay leaves to the pot. Cover the pot and let cook for 1 hour, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes.
- Remove the lid and add the chopped rosemary, thyme, basil, and half the green onion tops, reserving the remaining green onion tops for garnish. Close the lid and cook for another 20 minutes. Remove the lid to taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, and hot sauce.
- Just before serving, add the fish fillets and submerge in the sauce. Bring the pot to a simmer and let cook until the fish is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Be sure not to stir the fish to prevent it from breaking up.
- For serving, ladle the redfish courtbouillon over a mound of rice in a shallow bowl and garnish with green onion tops. Serve with crusty French bread.
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