Daily Archives: May 22, 2009

Not your mama’s catfish


I’m just going to say it: I’m not a huge fish fan. I mean, I like lox and other cured salmon and of course sushi, but I hate baked salmon and most other kinds of fish.

But my co-worker is always gently nudging me in the fish direction, which I know is good,  because fish is good for us, etc. I’ve made halibut before, and it was awesome. But halibut is very expensive. My co-worker swears by this basa swai fillet that was on sale at the grocery store. So the next time I went to Safeway, I bought some. The fish monger told me that it’s a type of Asian catfish.

The first time I made it, I poached the fish in a foil pouch with shallots, garlic, parsley, white wine and lemon. I hated it. HATED it. It tasted…metallic. I was reluctant to try again, but I still had all this basa swai in the freezer…

So I tried Lynne Rossetto Kasper. One of her weekly newsletters was Catfish with an Italian Twist. Lynne has done well by me before, so I thought I’d try her again.

Catfish: success!

I was so impressed by this dish and my boyfriend loved it, too. It is healthy and light, yet completely fulfilling. Yum, yum, yum. And I have to say, I had my doubts up until I put the first bite in my mouth. I am not kidding. I served myself a tiny taste at first. It isn’t fishy at all and full of rosemary flavor. This fish is mild on its own, so it will absorb whatever you cook it in. That is the key, my friends. I just love all the rosemary, it makes the house smell wonderful. It was so easy that even a novice fish-cooker like me could nail it. Trust in Lynne!

Here’s my take on the recipe that serves two:

1 pound of catfish fillets (I had one fillet cut in half)

1 large clove of garlic (I chopped it)

2 tsp fresh rosemary leaves (chopped)

1/2 tsp ground black pepper


6 large celery leaves and 2 inches celery stalk (or just a handful of the tender celery heart)

1/4 medium carrot (I didn’t have)

1/2 medium onion, chopped


1 bay leaf

1/4 dry white wine (I used leftover from the chicken scallopine)

2 cans peeled tomatoes, drained (I used 1 large fresh tomato, chopped)


Wash and dry fish. In a food processor, puree garlic, rosemary, pepper and 1 T EVOO (I didn’t want to dirty my processor, so I just chopped up all the ingredients and whisked in the oil). Rub over the fillets and refridgerate while you prepare the other ingredients.

Mince the celery, carrots and onion (I just finely chopped the celery leaves and onion. Not a huge celery fan). In a 12-inch (largest) skillet, heat the rest of the EVOO over medium. Stir in veggies and the bay leaf. Sautee for 3 min. or until just starting to color.

Push the veggies to the outer area and lay the fillets in the center, topping with all the rub. Sprinkle with a little salt. Sear on both sides, 3-4 min. per side.

Blend in the wine and the tomatoes, spooning them over the fish. Cover the pan and cook for 5 min. When finished, the fish should flake off but be moist and tender.

While that steams, make a quick couscous with chicken stock, 1 pat of butter, a pinch of salt and 1/4 c. golden raisins. When it’s done, stir in a handful of green onions (or chopped parsley) and toasted pine nuts (or almonds, or macadamia nuts).

To serve, spoon some couscous on a plate and top with the hot fish, spooning the sauce over everything.

This goes well with a crisp glass of white wine. Enjoy, friends!