November 25, 2013

Catfish Stew

Classic Southern catifsh stew recipe with potatoes, stewed tomatoes and fatback or bacon.

Mama and Daddy go fishing. A lot. Their freezer is always stocked with local freshwater goodness like bream, crappy, rock fish (striped bass) and catfish. Yay for me because Husband doesn't much care for any of it (eating it or fishing for it) so I can always get my fix at their house.

Daddy called me the other day asking if I had a recipe for catfish stew. I’d never made it before but had saved this recipe once upon a time thinking it looked like a solid place to start so I sent it to him.

They whipped up a pot of it and brought it over and, oh my sweet Lord, was it ever good! Mama also brought over a pan of her Skillet Cornbread and the two went so good together! I was one happy gal!

Catfish Stew
recipe adapted from Mahalia's Catfish Stew
5 strips thick-cut bacon or fatback, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, finely diced
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1 14-ounce can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1 1/2 cups fish stock* or water
3 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 pound catfish filets, cut into 1-inch pieces

Brown bacon or fatback in a Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat until almost crisp. Add onions and celery and sauté until onions are tender (3-5 minutes).

Add tomatoes, fish stock, ketchup, worcestershire, seasonings and potatoes and stir well. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 40 minutes or until potatoes are very tender.

Add catfish, reduce heat to low, cover and continue cooking for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, stir, cover and allow stew to rest for 20 minutes before serving.

*Simmer catfish bones, uncovered, in 3 cups water until liquid is reduced by half. If you’re not fileting your own catfish, your fish monger will be DELIGHTED to give you a sack of bones or shrimp shells that you can use instead (tell him you need the bones or shells from about one pound of fish or shrimp – doesn't matter what kind). You might be lucky enough to find canned fish or seafood stock in your grocery store. If you do, you won’t need a full teaspoon of salt for this recipe. Just salt to taste.


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  1. Mandy - even better - instead of the vegetable oil in your cast iron skillet, melt butter in it, swirl it around so it's foamy and just starting to turn brown - and then put your batter in. Oh my! The butter makes the outside buttery and crispy and oh so yummy.
    I have an old skillet sizzled cornbread recipe from an old Crescent Dragonwagon cookbook, and the ingredients are mostly the same (love the buttermilk tanginess) - but her final step with the butter takes it right over the cliff of awesomeness!

  2. Real Southern cornbread contains NO SUGAR!

    1. Well, I suppose that depends on who you ask. I, for one, think a little bit is divine. And I think I might know a thing or two about Southern cooking. And, um, why are you YELLING?!

    2. I agree...just a little sugar helps with the

  3. You weren't kidding about the best cornbread ever! I used your recipe for my crawfish cornbread dressing this year, and it was amazing! Not all of the cornbread made it into the dressing, and I've been told I need to make it again...soon. Thank you for sharing your delicious recipes!

  4. I don't have any catfish on hand, do you think tilapia could work as a substitute? Not sure if it would just fall apart while cooking.

    1. I think it will work! It probably will fall apart a bit but that's OK!

  5. Have you ever tried a catfish stew made with tomato juice? I have tasted it and it is good but cant find a recipe. I am going to try yours but may add some sugar to it.

  6. Recipe for catfish stew. 1 large can tomato juice large onion and catfish. Saute onion in a little olive oil then add tomatoe juice and bring to a boil. Add bite size chunks of catfish cover and cook on low for about 10 minutes. Serve over white rice. You can also switch out the catfish with 3 cans of salmon bones and all. The salmon stew is better if it sits in the refrigerator overnight. Serve over white rice or cornbread. Salt and pepper both to taste. Salmon stew freezes very well. You will love these recipes!

  7. This might be a stupid question, but is the catfish cooked when you add it in?


Hi there! While I'm not able to respond to every comment, I try hard to answer any questions that haven't been addressed in the post, recipe or in other comments. And though I may not respond to them all, I do read each and every comment and I LOVE to hear from you guys! Thanks, y'all! - Mandy