Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Turtle Sauce Piquant with Fried Catfish

For our Fat Tuesday dinner, DH and I put together this absolutely delicious combination of Turtle Sauce Piquant and Fried Catfish. Fried catfish may not be a traditional Creole accompaniment for Turtle Sauce Piquant, but it should be because it was damn good. Crispy, corn-meal crusted fish with a well-simmered, slightly spicy, sauce -- what's not to love?

I've never eaten, much less made, sauce piquant before, but I wanted a Creole dish to use up my remaining pound of turtle meat, and it fit the bill. I looked at several sauce piquant recipes in cookbooks and online, and ultimately made a version of this one from the Gumbo Pages. I didn't change much in the way of ingredients, but substantially rewrote the directions which were somewhat lacking and included a couple of mistakes.

Turtle Sauce Piquant with Fried Catfish


For the turtle sauce piquant:
  • 2 lbs. turtle meat, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 3 onions. chopped (divided)
  • 1 yellow or red bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 ribs celery, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
  • 6 tablespoons oil (divided)
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cans Ro-tel tomatoes
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, minced
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
For the catfish:
  • 1/4 cup fat-free milk
  • 1 1/2 pound catfish fillets 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium high heat in a heavy medium saucepan. Saute the meat, stirring occasionally until it is browned. Set aside the meat and pan juices. Wipe the pan clean.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Add 1/3 of the onion and 1/2 of the bell pepper, and saute until tender. Purée the vegetables in a blender and set the mixture aside.
  3. Make a medium, peanut butter-colored roux** with 3 tablespoons of the oil and the flour. Set aside.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Saute the remaining onion and bell pepper with the jalapenos, celery and garlic for about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft and beginning to brown.
  5. Add the roux to the sauted vegetables to stop the cooking process, and stir well. Make sure the roux does not stick to the bottom of the pot.
  6. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, wine chicken stock, Worcestershire, reserved turtle meat and pan juices, rosemary and thyme to the sauteed vegetables. Add the purée and stir. Season with the cayenne, black and white peppers and salt.
  7. Bring to a simmer, then cook on medium heat for about 1 hour or until the turtle meat is tender, stirring frequently to make sure it doesn't stick.
  8. Combine the milk and the catfish in a large bowl, tossing gently to coat. Let stand about 10 minutes.
  9. Remove the fish from the bowl, shaking off the excess milk. Sprinkle the fish with salt. Combine the cornmeal and the Cajun seasoning in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add the fish to the bag. Seal the bag and shake the it to coat the fish.
  10. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fish in batches; cooking 3 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Add oil as needed. Drain the fish on paper towels and keep warm.
  11. Season the turtle sauce piquant to taste with kosher salt, black pepper and cayenne. Serve over white rice with the catfish on the side.
Yield: 4-6 main course servings
Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 2 1/2 hours

Harris Teeter only had enormous pieces of catfish so I bought two filets for the four of us and DH sliced them length-wise after frying.

My kids are fairly adventurous diners, but I wasn't sure how the sauce piquant would be received. Tomato-based sauces sometimes put off B. No worries though, they absolutely chowed! Neither of them typically goes back for seconds, but they each ate two entire platefuls.

We may be a long ways from New Orleans, but we celebrate Mardi Gras as best we can here in the High Country!

** Confession: I used jar roux and it worked just fine.

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