October 2, 2009

Red Snapper Courtbouillon

Friday's Fish
There are some days, rare from the lack of time, that I enjoy meddling in the kitchen with a simple purpose in expanding my cooking skills and techniques. Such was the day when I made this. We all make Courtbouillon in one form or another as it is really just a stock used in simmering or poaching foods. But in the ever desire to expand my knowledge of Creole cookery, I spend most of the day doting on a version we enjoyed years ago in New Orleans.

Normally the use for Courtbouillon (flavored water with herbs, vegetables, an acid, salt and pepper) is to poach delicate foods as opposed to the more complex and rich stocks used for foods requiring longer cooking times. Some times, the liquid simmers to create a simple broth that we can serve as a soup course. Many times, we take it to the next level adding a wider variety of foodstuff and making it a meal in itself. There are so many variations of Courtbouillon and is used to poach anything from lone vegetables, delicate meats like sweetbreads and cockscombs, even eggs. Along the gulf coast, we use it to prepare fish and seafood and there again, there are so many ways to do it. All types of seafood and just about any type of fish are the mainstays in our area. Redfish is popular along the coast from Texas to Alabama while red snapper prevails over into Florida. Moving a tad inland from the coast, catfish enjoys bathing in Courtbouillon.

This recipe is one I favor, one that is made without the thickening of a roux and uses the fish bones to give depth to the stock. This is one I worked most of that day in creating a Creole version with all the goodness I fancied in turning a simple broth into a complex one-dish, mouth-watering experience. Enjoy!

Red Snapper Courtbouillon

For the fish stock:
5 pounds of red snapper, cleaned with heads on
1 cup of water
Salt and pepper

For the Creole sauce:
1/4 cup bacon drippings (or cooking oil)
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped sweet pepper
6 ribs of celery, chopped
8 large tomatoes ran through a ricer or see note below
3/4 cup of water
Salt, pepper, cayenne & paprika to taste
1 cup sherry or red wine
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup Worcestershire
3/4 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup chopped parsley
3 or 4 fresh basil leaves, chopped
4 large bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon allspice
1 lemon, thinly sliced

Fillet the snapper and cut into 2-inch sections, set aside in the refrigerator. Place the body of the fish, bones and heads, in a stockpot. Add the water and a little salt and pepper. Simmer covered on low for about 2 hours. Remove from heat, strain the broth and discard the fish carcass.

In a large heavy skillet or pot over low heat, add the bacon drippings and sauté the onion, sweet pepper and celery until the vegetables become very soft, almost mushy. Add the tomatoes, water and reserved fish stock. Bring to a simmer cooking for a few minutes and then add the seasonings to taste. Add the wine, Worcestershire, garlic and herbs. Do not yet add the lemon. Cook on low for about 1 1/2 hours. Add the lemon slices and cook another 30 minutes. Add in the fish and cook for only 20 minutes. Remove the lemons and let cool. Check the seasonings and adjust if necessary. If the broth has a bitter taste from the lemon, add a good pinch of sugar.

If you really want to meld the flavors, refrigerate until the next day. Slowly warm it up and serve over a hot bed of white rice with a salad for a side and hot French bread.

Note: you may also use 1 -6 oz tomato paste, 1 -8 oz tomato sauce & 1 -16 oz can drained tomatoes
New Orleans art by Jack McCann


  1. Drick this looks amazing! I've often been intrigued by courtbouillon recipes but never ventured to try it but this recipe may just get me to finally do it. Thank you so much for sharing it!

  2. This looks so good! You are such an amazing cook, wish I were your neighbor!

  3. with so many different spice, i bet it must taste divine!

  4. Th smell that was coming out from your kitchen must be amazing!