Catfish Stew

(Granny’s Note: Pickens Williams brought this for supper after Daddy’s funeral.)

(Tim the Younger’s Note: I loved working through this recipe. I moved away from my hometown nearly 20 years ago when I joined the Marine Corps, and this definitely brought back some good memories of how those folks are. I’ve added some translations for those that don’t speak fluent deep-south, but I’ve copied it as close to the original as possible–but, you know, bulletized and without all the typos so it’s easier to read and use.)

  • 3 lbs catfish
  • 3 lbs potatoes
  • 1 lb onion
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • Other things that you’ll need (or might) that aren’t listed:
    • Bacon grease (This is a southern recipe, so it just assumes you have bacon grease on hand. You can substitute with oil, or you can fry up some bacon and save the grease.)
    • Hot sauce (Yeah, same as the bacon grease. If memory serves, original Tabasco was the standard, but use whatever you’d like. Or if you don’t like spicy, add a little white or apple cider vinegar for tanginess.)
    • Salt
    • Pepper
    • Water
    • Tomato juice… Maybe (If you end up needing this and don’t have it, just water will suffice. Or you can cut original or low-sodium V8 with water for the same effect.)
    • Fat back… Maybe (People where I live now have never heard of this, but it’s exactly what it sounds like: fat and skin from the back of the pig. Here, people call it or something very close to it “crackling”. If you want to add this in the final step, crackling, hog jowl, or just some thick-cut bacon should do the trick.)

Directions:

  1. Dress fish. (Cut off the head, skin it, and remove the guts. You didn’t buy this from the store; you or someone you know caught it.)
  2. Boil in plain water until meat can easily be picked from bones.
  3. Pick off bones.
  4. Strain water and save.
  5. Peel and dice potato, and cook in strained fish water.
  6. Chop onion and fry in bacon grease. (See? Told ya.)
  7. Just before potatoes are done (so around 15 minutes after adding), add fish and onion.
  8. Add tomato paste until it gets to the color you want. (My recommendation: just add all of it. If you think the tomato flavor is too strong, just add some water.)
  9. Add salt, pepper, and hot sauce to taste.
  10. Cook to the consistency you like. If too thick, add tomato juice. If too thin, just keep cooking.
  11. You may dice and fry out some fat back and add to the stew. It adds flavor.

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