Jubilee and a Cajun Catfish Etoufee

I was recently invited to be part of a review event for Jubilee, Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking, a just published, new cookbook by Toni Tipton-Martin.  Thanks Camilla for extending the invite. 

About the book, from the Publishers:
"More than 100 recipes that paint a rich, varied picture of the true history of African American cooking—from a James Beard Award–winning food writer

NAMED ONE OF FALL’S BEST COOKBOOKS BY The New York Times • Bon Appétit • Eater • Food & Wine • Kitchn • Chowhound

Throughout her career, Toni Tipton-Martin has shed new light on the history, breadth, and depth of African American cuisine. She’s introduced us to black cooks, some long forgotten, who established much of what’s considered to be our national cuisine. After all, if Thomas Jefferson introduced French haute cuisine to this country, who do you think actually cooked it?

In Jubilee, Tipton-Martin brings these masters into our kitchens. Through recipes and stories, we cook along with these pioneering figures, from enslaved chefs to middle and upper-class writers and entrepreneurs. With more than 100 recipes, from classics such as Sweet Potato Biscuits, Seafood Gumbo, Buttermilk Fried Chicken, and Pecan Pie with Bourbon to lesser-known but even more decadent dishes like Bourbon & Apple Hot Toddies, Spoon Bread, and Baked Ham Glazed with Champagne, Jubilee presents techniques, ingredients, and dishes that show the roots of African American cooking—deeply beautiful, culturally diverse, fit for celebration."

Photo by Jerrelle Guy, from Jubilee by Toni Tipton-Martin

Speaking of light shed, I was especially struck with the excellent, evocative, often unusually dark, though glowing photography, perfectly reflecting the lamp or candle lit kitchens and dining rooms of another era, as do the tables, linens and settings. Photographer, Jerrelle Guy, is only given a very tiny mention, on the last page.  She does have a blog, if you're interested: Chocolate for Basil.   I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for a review, however, the opinions are my own. 

It is hard to know where to begin cooking, considering the many wonderful recipes in this book.  The back stories Tipton-Martin includes on each of her selections add so much to our appreciation.  Still, what to cook for this event? What usually inspires me, when you get right down to it though, is what do I have on hand that could use some creative, delicious input?  I didn't have catfish, not normally found here in Hawaiian waters, but there was fresh ahi tuna.  Thus we came to Tipton-Martin's rendition of a recipe originated by Ethel Dixon, classic Cajun, roux based, Catfish Entoufee   It seems to have gone through some changes over the years, so a few more are not a bad thing.

Catfish Entoufee
            from Jubilee by Toni Tipton-Martin

    Serves 4
1 lb. catfish fillets, or any other firm-fleshed white fish, cut into 4-inch pieces (I used Ahi tuna)
1 teas. cayenne pepper
1/2 teas. salt, or to taste
1/2 Teas. black pepper
1/2 teas. dried thyme (I used fresh and doubled it)
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used peanut)
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup minced onion
2 tablespoons minced green bell pepper
2 tablespoons minced celery 
1 teas. minced garlic
1 small bay leaf
1 1/2 cups fish stock, warmed (I used my basic stock)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 stick butter
2 tablespoons minced green onions
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Freshly cooked rice

Place the fish pieces on a plate and dry with a paper towel to help the seasonings adhere to the fish.  In a small bowl, combine the cayenne, salt, black pepper, and thyme.  Season the fillets with half of the mixture.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over high heat until sizzling and nearly smoking.  Reduce the heat to medium-high.  Gradually whisk in the flour until smooth, being careful not to splatter any of the hot roux on your skin.  Cook, stirring constantly, until the roux is medium-brown, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic, bay leaf and the remaining seasoning mixture.  Return to the heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the vegetables are softened, about 2 minutes.  Gradually stir in 1/2 cup of the warm stock and the tomato paste and stir until the sauce begins to thicken, about 1 minute, then remove from the heat.
In a separate skillet, heat 4 tablespoons of the butter until sizzling.  Add the catfish and green onions and cook until the fish is opaque (it does not need to brown), 2-3 minutes per side.

Transfer the fish, the remaining 4 tablespoons butter, and the remaining 1 cup stock to the skillet with the vegetables and cook for 2-3 minutes, shaking or stirring the pan constantly to melt the butter and emulsify it into a rich sauce.  Remove and discard the bay leaf.  Sprinkle the etouffee with the parsley and serve over rice.

Utterly scrumptious comfort food, with that fabulous roux based sauce.  We both loved this dish, and I'm looking forward to making many more of her selections.  Right now bookmarked are: Benne wafers, Sweet Potato biscuits with ham, Spoonbread, Nigerian Black-eyed Pea Fritters, Corn and Potato Chowder with Crab, West African Groundnut Stew, Gumbo Z'herbes, Okra Salad, String Beans a la Creole,  Braised Lamb Shanks with Peanut Sauce.... I'm going to stop here because I could go on and on.

I'll serve this up over at Camilla's place for the Jubilee event, with Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking, and over at Heather's Foodies Read Challenge for November.   Lots of good food at all three sites, so I hope you'll visit.


Camilla M. Mann said...

Claudia, thanks for joining the Jubilee party! There are SO many delicious recipes to try. I'm glad you were inspired.

Debra Eliotseats said...

Great recipe! I thought the photography was superb as well! This is a great cookbook!!!

A Day in the Life on the Farm said...

I guess that's what happens when Ahi Tuna is so readily available. I pay top dollar for it here in Michigan and I want to just taste the tuna LOL. But we do have white fish, perch and pickeral here and I know it would be delicious in this dish.

Karen said...

Ooooh! That looks delicious! I just happen to have some catfish in the freezer...

gluten Free A_Z Blog said...

Sounds like quite and interesting and impressive book! Being a vegetarian, this recipe won't work for me but usually I can find some that do.

Gimme The Scoop said...

Looks really good! I love catfish! Thanks for sharing!

(Diane) bookchickdi said...

All the recipes you listed are making me hungry!

Beth F said...

I'm not a big catfish fan, so I'd substitute a white fish (likely cod). This sounds really good. I hadn't heard of this cookbook -- I'm hoping my library has a copy (I like to look before I buy).

Tina said...

Catfish is big around these parts. We have several restaurants who specialize, one is called The catfish Pad. Haven't had it in a while but oh man....your version here looks like a winner.

Delaware Girl Eats said...

This book certainly is getting a lot of well-deserved buzz and I was actually invited to come to a dinner in DC where Toni (who is a fellow Dame, from the Les Dames de Escoffier group), but I was not able to go -- darn. Glad you were able to cook from it!