Saturday, January 30, 2010

Smoked Catfish Brandade and Catfish Bacon

Visiting my parents in Louisiana is always a treat for many reasons.  One of the biggest, along with company of course, is the bounty of fresh fish and shellfish that is readily available.  Traveling with a chef is always a great thing too.  My friend Melissa from work and her fiance Chris are here with me in Zachary.  Chris is the chef de cuisine at one of Cambridge's oldest and best restaurants and owns a new catering company called Tasty Plates in Boston.  He and I took over my mom's kitchen last night and put together quite a feast for my family that focused on catfish.  It was an honor and treat to be cooking alongside someone with so much passion and creativity.  Mom even got in on the act helping out by contributing some creative time saving tricks and by baking one of her fantastic pecan pies for dessert.  It was a culinary experience to remember!

My dad picked up some beautiful fillets at Tony's Seafood Market and Deli in Baton Rouge, one of the best fish markets around.  They were a healthy reddish-pink since they were so fresh and had almost no odor whatsoever.  Chris gave them a generous rub with Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning and put them on my dad's grill to smoke for about an hour over mesquite branches.  Chris was especially excited to be able to work with catfish because they don't serve it where he works, and he and I both love it so much.

The fish itself was amazing, but then we had all of that delicious smoked skin after we removed it from the fillets.  Chris and I both tasted it and it was really good.  The only thing keeping it from being amazing was the not-so-desirable texture.  It would have been a shame to waste it, so it went into the oven for crisping up and the results were surprisingly good if not a little odd.  The understatement of the decade is that it was everyone's first experience with catfish bacon last night.  Feelings were mixed around the table, but it's an idea that deserves further exploration in my opinion.  Maybe we'll see catfish bacon popping up all over in Boston's restaurant scene in the near future and then you can say you read about it first on CQ!

The centerpiece of the meal was the brandade that we made with the smoked catfish.  Chris baked some potatoes and I made a big batch of mayonnaise.  Half of the mayo became Remoulade sauce for the brandade and the other half went in with the riced potatoes and fish to act as a binder for the brandade.  We made cakes out of the mixture and coated them with flour seasoned with more Tony Chachere's.  Chris fried them in a skillet and we baked them in the oven to finish the cooking.  They were amazing.  We have plenty leftover and we'll be having delicious fish sandwiches for lunch today. Below is the result of our collaboration:

Smoked Catfish Brandade

8 catfish fillets, smoked and cured in Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning
4 large Idaho potatoes, baked and riced
2 shallots, minced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1 onion, finely diced
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons Tony Chachere's
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
  1. Sautée the shallots, onion, and celery in a skillet until tanslucent, but not brown.
  2. Flake the catfish fillets into small bits with a fork.
  3. Combine flour, salt, pepper, and Tony Chachere's on a plate for a flour dredge.
  4. Combine riced potatoes, catfish, sautéed aromatics, and mayo in a large mixing bowl.  Fold the ingredients together being careful not to overwork it.  It should be light and fluffy like you are making gnocchi.
  5. Work the fish and potato mixture into cakes about the size of your plam and dredge them in the flour mixture.  We got about 18 cakes out of our batch - too much for the seven of us eating.
  6. Sear the cakes in an oiled pan over med high heat and place them on a cooling rack.
  7. Roast the cakes in the oven for about 20 minutes just to heat them through on the cooling racks placed over a baking sheet.
  8. Served with a dollop of Remoulade Sauce and chopped parsley.
With wine: We drank a couple of different things with dinner last night.  We started with Mateus sparkling Rosé from Portugal.  You'll probably know this because of it's popularity in the 60's and 70's and unfortunate bad reputation now.  We picked it up for $5.99 a bottle at the local grocery and it was delicious.  It was a touch off-dry and had pleasant bubbles that reminded my of Moscato d'Asti.  It went great with the smokey, spicy flavors in the brandade.  My brother-in-law Jeremy, a non-wine drinker, especially loved it which I think speaks to its universal appeal and versatility.

We also drank Yalumba Riesling from South Australia.  It had a lovely lime peel flavor and flinty aroma.  It was steely on the palete with a slight prickle of bubbles.  It was refreshing and crisp.  It worked nicely as a foil against the richness of our food.  I think Riesling is one of the best wines being produced in Australia these days and is a nice inexpensive alternative to those from Alsace.

The third wine was Duck Pond Pinot Noir from Oregon.  It was the most expensive wine of the night retailing for $18.99.  I loved it's delicate pure cherry fruit and tart background.  It was delicious with the roasted smokey fish and cut through the rich and flavorful Remoulade nicely, but not so heavy that it overpowered the fish.  It was a pleasure to drink and a bargain considering how expensive Oregon Pinot Noirs have become over the past few years.  I'll be sure to look for it again in the near future.

Bon appetit!


  1. Mmm...I am craving seafood after reading this post. Thank you. And I think a trip to Louisiana may be in order.

  2. Louisiana is a must. Best seafood in the country!

  3. thanks for using our seasoning in your recipe blog! We appreciate you!

    Cindy Adams-Ardoin
    Food Scientist
    Tony Chachere's