recipe: pêcher du ragoût l’acadien (cajun fish stew)

I don’t get to cook for groups nearly often enough these days. Sharing the experience of food is still, by far and away, one of my favorite ways to spend time, especially if I am involved in the kitchen, even if it’s just as a soux chef doing the chopping for the brains of the outfit. As this idea came together though, it roughly began to resemble other dishes I’ve made before so it ended up being a lot of fun to “make up as I went along.” This could, in essence, be a derivative of the traditional gumbo but because the starch (rice) is cooked into the dish rather than aside and served over the top of it and I didn’t have okra or other thickener, it defies the tradition of how that meal would normally be done.

I am a firm believer in the one pot meal being a full, one pot. This entire meal was done in one pot… I even made the stock, from scratch preceding the meal itself in the same pot. The stock was the leftover parts of roughly chopping the veggies and cleaning the shrimp as well as some frozen cray fish parts I had left over from a previous meal. I put about 7 to 10 cups of water in with the veggies and shells along with some whole pepper corns and let it boil out for about an hour. It could be done at the same time as making the roux, or it could be purchased if you prefer. I like using everything I have and not letting anything to go to waste. Once it all boils then place a collender inside of a large bowl and strain the shells and veggie parts from the liquid. You can re-strain it again through cheese cloth if you want, but it’s not really necessary if you have a fine mesh collendar.

Cooking the dish is not difficult but it does require care in the beginning to layer the flavors. The roux will become your first level of flavor, the darker the roux the less thickening power it brings but the bigger and bolder the flavor it produces. Then the trinity (onion, pepper and celery) being carmalized off will add another layer so be sure to let them take on a nice color in the process. Toasting the rice before adding the liquids and browning off the sausage again helps set up yet another layer of flavors. This process might seem long and tedious but the payoff is wonderfully deep, rustic flavors that the dish is built off of and is really more about patience than anything else.

bell pepper
jalapeno pepper
olive oil
fish stock *
house spice *
bay leaf
rosemary (fresh and dried)
andouille or linguisa style sausage
brown rice
red snapper or other similar fish fillets cubed
large shrimp
smoked oysters
collard (or other dark leafy green like kale)
stock pot

In the stock pot combine equal parts by weight of the oil and flour to begin the roux
Allow the roux to form and while it does, mix occasionally while roughly chopping the onion, celery, bell pepper, jalapeno pepper and garlic
You are shooting for about peanutbutter to almost brick colored roux at this point so sir consistently so it doesn’t burn (if it burns throw it out and start over)
Pull the roux to one side of the stock pot, add the dried rosemary to the roux and add the veggies to the opposite side of the pot
Allow the veggies to begin to brown and season as necessary with the house seasoning
Once they veggies are browned and the roux is the right color, combine and add the sausage and rice.
Keep stirring the entire mixture and as the sausage and rice begins to brown. The fats from the sausage should help toast the rice and prevent the roux and veggies from further burning.
Once the ingredients in the pot are all to about the right doneness, add the stock (If the usual ratio , the bay leaves and reseason as necessary, bring up to a boil and then back down to a simmer.
Cover and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes.
Add the cubed fish and reseason as necessary with house seasoning.
Allow to simmer for about 10-15 minutes, add the fresh rosemary, then add the roughly chopped collard in handfuls mixing in as you do.
Add the shrimp and smoked oysters to the pot, reseason as necessary and combine in the pot.
Once the shrimp turn colors (between 2 and 5 minutes depending on the shrimp and temp of the pot) it is done.
Remove from heat and allow to stand to let the liquids thicken before serving

Usually with soups and stews that have dark leafy greens I like to line the bowl with them, but, in this case I find a nice crusty bread slice at the bottom of the bowl is a nice touch to the dish.

About thedoormouse

I am I. That’s all that i am. my little mousehole in cyberspace of fiction, recipes, sacrasm, op-ed on music, sports, and other notations both grand and tiny:
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