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  • Writer's pictureTommy Centola

Share in the work of a great meal

The first known mention of the Feast of the Seven Fishes was in the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1983. I know it wasn’t a tradition at my house. My mother had a difficult enough task of cooking Christmas dinner for the nine of us. She was a little busy Christmas Eve.

These dishes are far from the traditional dishes one would find. Many of the dishes are fried. One of the well-known dishes is Baccalå, which is salted cod fish. This is not something found in the city of New Orleans.

Here are the final two dishes for your feast. As promised, they are both actually feature fish. The first is a Catfish Jambalaya. The second is a Pecan-Crusted Grouper. These are the two fish that I eat most often. Grab the fish, and Let’s head to the kitchen!

Catfish Jambalaya

Here’s a dish that makes a great addition to this menu. It can be used as both a main dish and a side dish. Either way, it’s a great vessel for the most popular fish here in Arkansas.

4 yellow onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 bell pepper, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1/2 pound (2 sticks) margarine

1 10-ounce can diced tomatoes

4 ounces fresh mushrooms, chopped

Creole seasoning to taste

8 ounces catfish fillets

2 cups cooked white rice

2 tablespoons green onion tops, finely chopped

Place all ingredients except the catfish, rice and green onions into a large saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture starts to turn a light brown. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then add the fish and cook 15 to 20 minute longer. Stir in the rice and green onions and serve.

Pecan-Crusted Grouper

Grouper is my favorite fish. I usually coat it with Blackened Seasoning and sauté (bronze) it. Today I want to take a very New Orleans approach. Pecans are abundant in New Orleans cooking. Here they find their way in a savory dish.

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons Creole seasoning

2 large eggs

1 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans

6 (6-ounce) skinless grouper fillets

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup olive oil

Brown Butter Sauce (recipe to follow)

Preheat oven to 350℉. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.

In a shallow bowl, combine flour and Creole seasoning. In a separate shallow bowl, whisk eggs. In a third shallow bowl, place pecans. Dredge each fillet in flour mixture, shaking off excess. Dip fillet in egg, letting excess drip off. Place fillet in pecans, pressing lightly to cast both sides of the fillet.

In a large skillet, melt butter and oil over medium heat. Add fillets, in batches, and cook 2 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Arrange fillets on baking sheet, and bake 10 minutes, or until fish flakes easily. Serve with Brown Butter Sauce.

Brown Butter Sauce

4 cloves garlic, sliced

1 large shallot, minced

3 tablespoons butter

In a small skillet, combine all ingredients, and cook oven medium heat until shallots are tender and butter is browned. Serve warm.

If you want to celebrate the Feast of the Seven Fishes, I would advise this. Gather some friends and divide the dishes to be prepared among them. This way, everyone can enjoy the gathering and share in the work. After all, it is the Christmas season!

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