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  • Ken Perrotte

Louisiana Inspired! Marsh Madness Redfish with Rustic Smashed Potatoes and Crawfish Cream Sauce

Updated: Apr 4, 2023

By Ken & Maria Perrotte

The stars of this dish are two main ingredients, both collected on a late March 2023 trip to Louisiana. The first star is crawfish. We filled our bellies with boiled crawfish, crawfish po-boys, crawfish bread and crawfish etouffee at three festivals: the Louisiana Crawfish Festival, the Louisiana Crawfish Boil Championships and the Eunice World Championship Etouffee Cook-Off. Our journey was proof that it simply is not possible to overdose on crawfish. That is why 25 pounds of boiled crawfish made its way back to our Virginia home from Louisiana. Some was immediately eaten with friends while a few pounds were picked and the tail meat reserved for other uses – like this dish!

The other star is fresh fish, ideally fillets from species we caught such as red drum (redfish), sheepshead and black drum. Both sheepshead and black drum have beautiful, flaky white meat. But use only younger, smaller fish – especially drum – ideally fish weighing about 5 pounds or fewer. We caught our fish on an excursion out of Jean Lafitte Harbor in Jefferson Parish, fishing with Capt. Gavin McKerchie, bayou born and bred and a young man who works hard to get you fish in the cooler.


The broth/sauce is almost like an etouffee except you don’t make a classic roux and cream is used. Here’s how you do it. Pick the crawfish tails and save all the heads and tail debris (minus the “vein” if possible). Throw these in a big stock pot, cover with water and simmer it for at least 2-3 hours. The result is a potent broth that can be used in a multitude of dishes. Hint: do the same thing with all your shrimp shells and heads when you peel and eat shrimp, especially fresh shrimp. If you don’t have boiled crawfish, you can substitute seafood stock or water seasoned with either crab boil or creole seasoning plus lemon.

The Fish

2 to 6 fish fillets, depending on size – fillets between 5-12 ounces or so are best

½ to 2/3 cup fish breading (we like House of Autry Seafood Breading)

½ to 2/3 cup Italian breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons Butter (can use more if needed)

1 tablespoon olive oil


Preparation

Mix equal amounts breading and breadcrumbs on a shallow plate. Dredge fillets, pressing to coat but shaking off excess. (Tip – surplus breading mix can be stored in a baggie in the freezer for later use.) Heat oil and butter in a pan over medium heat. Sauté fillets for 2 or 3 minutes, depending on the size, until lightly golden brown. Flip and cook until the other side is also lightly golden brown and the fish is cooked. It should be flakey but still moist.


The Potatoes

2 to 4 yellow or redskin potatoes, depending on size (enough for 2 generous portions)

Crawfish broth (or seafood broth, or water seasoned with crab boil or creole seasoning and lemon)

Butter and cream to taste


Preparation

Clean and cut potatoes in to 1-to-2-inch pieces and add them to a small stock pot. Cover them with crawfish broth and cook until soft enough to mash. Drain, then mash them with a hand masher or fork until rustically mashed, leaving a few small lumps. Stir in a little butter and cream to desired consistency.

The Sauce

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 tablespoons diced green peeper

1/3 cup diced onion

1/3 cup chopped mushrooms

2 tablespoons chopped shallots (green onion)

1 ½ to 2 tablespoons flour

1 ¼ cup crawfish broth

¼ cup half and half or cream

1/3 cup cooked corn kernels (we like to cook an ear in the crawfish broth; it’s not necessary, but adds flavor)

1 cup or more cooked crawfish tails


Preparation

Heat butter and oil in a skillet over medium low heat. Cook the onion and pepper 2 or 3 minutes until starting to soften. Add the mushrooms and half the scallion, reserving the rest for garnish. After 2 or 3 minutes, when the mushrooms have lost most of the moisture and the mixture has softened, sprinkle and stir in the flour. Add enough so that most of the butter seems absorbed. Cook another minute or two. Slowly stir in the broth and cook another 1or 2 minutes. Add the cream and cook a minute or two until the sauce begins to thicken a little. Add the crawfish and corn and heat until they are warm.

Suggested Process & Assembly

Make the potatoes first, then make the sauce up until the point of adding cream. Then cook the fish. When it’s done, heat and finish the sauce. To serve, place a large dollop of potatoes on a plate. Place fish on the potatoes and top with a generous serving of sauce. Garnish with reserved scallions. Peas or green beans compliment the dish, but a salad could round out the meal. Crusty bread and wine are always a welcome addition.


Lagniappe (a little something extra)

When you visit New Orleans, there is so much so see that it can be daunting. While it’s cool, please don’t spend all of your time in the French Quarter. Check out the beautiful Garden District, eat in some of the excellent restaurants in the Warehouse District or neighboring Metairie and the historic fishing center known as Bucktown. Take a ride up to the top of the city with Vue Orleans and see incredible panoramas plus experience interactive exhibits and displays while there. If you’re a bourbon or rye fan, you have to hit Sazerac House. Besides the free samples and chance to leave with a bottle or three, you can learn all about the origins of the Sazerac cocktail, how bitters are made and take a tour through the history of New Orleans dating to pre-Prohibition. Finally, you must – and this is an order directly from Outdoors Rambler World Headquarters - visit the National World War II Museum. With multiple pavilions, and moving, sometimes visceral exhibits that take you to Europe, the Pacific and the national effort on the home front, this museum is a destination unto itself. Check it out and checkout the Higgins Hotel, directly adjacent to it – most convenient. Now, eat! Enjoy! Allons…

Sheepshead are also incredibly delicious in this recipe!

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