catfish ponchartrain

Catfish Ponchartrain with Wild Rice

The weather in Fayetteville has finally reached early summer perfection at 80 degrees and sunshine. AND we are about to close on our first home!  Between those two things, we are vibrating back and forth between invigorated and terrified. The feeling of draining your bank accounts to put out a down payment is akin to that moment you are at the top of a rollercoaster ready to plunge over the edge. Your stomach gets all fluttery with the anticipation of plunging over the edge while your brain starts screaming at you, “What have you done to us!?! Can’t you see we’re about to plunge over the edge!?!” But I am really excited about having three acres of space for gardening, great fruit trees, and some really nice hardwoods that will shade us during the heat of Arkansas summer.

mushrooms yellow pepper

The back deck looks over our own little patch of woods, and you can hear Goose Creek flowing through the trees. Walking through this property a couple of weeks ago, we saw ripe mulberries on a tree in the front yard, a trellis on the edge of the woods with an abundance of ripening muscadines, and Ginny’s favorites, a huge patch of wild blackberries. There’s a nice tile floored sunroom in the front of the house that seems absolutely destined to become a greenhouse/potted herb garden. There has also been talk of a few chickens to provide us with fresh eggs. The possibilities are endless.

catfish with spices

With the summer weather staring to descend, I’ve found myself in my kayak with a fishing pole a lot.  An afternoon on Lake Wedington yielded a couple of beautiful catfish recently, and I knew exactly what I needed to make. I had Catfish Ponchartrain for the first time in New Orleans two decades ago and fell in love at first bite.

Those Cajuns sure know how to do their sauces right! I have seen several variations on the sauce…some darker, some lighter. This one has a lot of veggies, white wine and butter, which really bring out the savory goodness of the sauce. I cooked the onions down for around 20 minutes as well as the celery until they became almost a gel. This adds so much to the flavor and texture of the sauce. The most important thing with the mushrooms is to make sure you have the heat up so they don’t get soggy.

catfish ponchartrain with wild rice

I chose wild rice to serve with the catfish, but you could do it over brown rice, white rice or pasta. This is a really filling dish with lots of protein. You could easily trim down the saturated fat by substituting olive oil for the butter, although the flavor would be slightly different.

For the catfish:

  • 4-5 catfish fillets
  • 1 tbsp. Cajun seasoning
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp. of butter to cook

 

For the sauce:

  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 onion, sliced very thin
  • 4 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. Cajun seasoning
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp smoked hot paprika (or some cayenne)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tbsp. Grey Poupon
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 pound fresh peeled shrimp, thawed and rinsed
  • 1 tbsp. flour
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • juice of one lemon
  • lemon wedges to serve

catfish ponchartrain two

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, mix together Cajun seasoning, salt, pepper and smoked paprika. Let sit for a few minutes. Meanwhile, heat butter over medium high heat in a pan. Cook catfish in pan for 3-4 minutes per side, depending on thickness, until it flakes easily with a fork. Set aside and cover.
  2. Heat butter in a pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook for about 10 minutes. Add celery and cook for another 5 minutes. Add bell pepper and garlic and cook until all veggies have reduced in size by half. Add Cajun seasoning, oregano, paprika, salt and mushrooms and cook for 4-5 minutes until mushrooms have become soft.
  3. Add wine and simmer until almost completely absorbed. Add Grey Poupon and stir in well. Add water and stir well. Add shrimp and cook for 4-5 minutes or until done. Sprinkle in flour and add butter one tbsp. at a time, slowly mixing it in the sauce. Add lemon juice and simmer for another 4-5 minutes.
  4. Serve sauce over a bed of wild rice with a fillet of catfish on top and lemon wedge to the side. Enjoy!

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