Redfish Courtbouillon

Here is a great, light, big-flavor, very traditional Creole dish that is served almost nowhere anymore. It’s one of the few dishes that pair tomatoes with seafood that I actually think is good. In this case, very, very good.

“Courtbouillon” means “brief boil,” which describes the final step. However, I find I get much better results by finishing the dish in the oven instead of on top of the stove, and the process from there takes about an hour–which is not what I would call brief. My version veers further from the standard by lightening up on roux, and adding a few flavors from the Italian spectrum. These add a taste dimension without deeply altering the dish.

You need to make fish stock for this, so wait until you have whole fish to work with. You can make a courtbouillon of any fish that poaches well, but for some reason you can’t say “courtbouillon” without prefacing it with “redfish.” Drum, sheepshead, lemonfish, and striped bass would also work well.

Courtbouillon of shrimp and drum @ Toups Meaterie.

A courtbouillon of shrimp and drum

  • Stock:
  • 1 medium redfish, filleted, about 2 1/2 lbs.
  • 1 bunch parsley, stems only
  • Tops of a bunch of celery
  • 1/2 onion, cut up
  • 1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 medium onions, chopped coarsely (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1/2 fennel bulb, chopped
  • 1 small, ripe red bell pepper, seeds and membranes removed, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 whole canned plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of juice from canned tomatoes
  • 2 medium fresh, ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (best: Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 1 tsp. salt-free Creole seasoning
  • Juice of one small lemon, strained
  • 6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, chopped
  • 1 Tbs. Louisiana hot sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 green onions, green parts only, finely sliced

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

1. 1. Put all the fish bones, heads, skins, and scraps into a stockpot and cover with cold water. Bring it to a boil, then dump the water, saving all the fish parts.

2. Refill the pot with just enough water to barely cover the fish parts. Add all the other stock ingredients, and bring to the lightest possible simmer, with bubbles breaking only occasionally. Hold the stock at that temperature, uncovered, for about 30 minutes. Skim off the scum.

3. In a large, stainless steel or enamel skillet (for which you have a cover, though you don’t need it just now), heat the olive oil over medium-high heat till it shimmers. Add the flour and make a blond roux, stirring constantly. Add the onions, celery, fennel, bell pepper and garlic. Lower heat to medium and cook, stirring now and then, until the vegetables are soft.

4. Add the tomatoes, tomato juice, and wine. Bring to a boil while stirring lightly for about two minutes. Add all the other ingredients except the green onions, plus one quart of fish stock. Return to a very light boil, and hold there for about fifteen minutes.

5. Cut the redfish fillets into pieces about four ounces each. Place them atop the sauce, and season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan and put it into the oven at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes. The fish should be tender but not falling apart.

6. Adjust seasonings to taste and serve with plenty of the sauce in wide bowls. Garnish with green onions. It’s great to have garlic bread with this.

Serves six to eight.

4 Readers Commented

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  1. David Lourie on January 3, 2014

    Tom, I really don’t think the new e-mail and website formats are improvements. The requirement to click on the “read more” links makes for choppy, awkward reading. Frankly, I believe it encourages the reader to read up to the link, stop, and read the next snipett. The new formats also are not particularly smartphone friendly, which is fast becoming the way people access online information.

    • Tom Fitzmorris on January 3, 2014

      My goal is to give the Red Bean Edition subscribers the previews, and the Five-Star subscribers the full articles all on one page (which I prefer myself). The problem is that the software will allow only one or the other. We think there’s a workaround for this, but we don’t have it yet.

      As for the smartphone visibility, it’s already better than the old system, and ober the weekend I plan to rejigger the open restaurant lists, the recipe list, and a few other things in a larger font to make it easier to read.

      Tastefully yours,
      Tom Fitzmorris

  2. dan on January 3, 2014

    first red courtbouillon i ever had was just after i relocated to nola for med school. ate at one of my classmates parties at his apartment on jeff davis. he was from baton rouge and he was a wonderful cook at age 23. when i ate this dish while listening to brazil 66 on the platter i thought i was in heaven. i could never duplicate his technique but i will never forget the party or the dish!

  3. jim hastings on January 14, 2014

    i live in florida, fish with my son on a regular basis and catch enough redfish to have made this recipe several times, i have had rousing success with it! thank you! i like to grill the red fish before putting it in the gravy/sauce,