Food & Drink

Southern Classic Recipe: Catfish Stew

Asheville Chef Elliott Moss’s childhood favorite

photo: Margaret Houston


Asheville, North Carolina, isn’t hash country, but chef Elliott Moss wants to change that.

“I’ll just keep making it until people love it,” says the Florence, South Carolina native.

That traditional pork-and-mustard-sauce gravy is only one of the hometown favorites on the menu at the recently opened Buxton Hall Barbecue, where he also serves whole hog barbecue, the chicken-and-sausage pilau known as chicken bog, and classic catfish stew.

“R.T. Moss was my grandfather, and he had a catfish pond in his backyard,” Moss says. “We caught fish and he cleaned them. Sometimes he fried them, but mostly it was stew.” And when the chef wasn’t slurping catfish stew at the dinner table, he was dishing it up at the barbecue buffets where it still sits on steam tables next to long-cooked green beans and candied sweet potatoes. Today he makes it a lot like his grandfather did, with canned tomatoes and plenty of hot sauce. Serve it over rice, with crackers, and lemon wedges on the side.


Ingredients

    • 3 slices smoked bacon, diced

    • 1 onion, diced

    • 3 stalks celery, diced

    • 1 large carrot, diced

    • 1 clove garlic, minced

    • 2 28-oz. cans whole tomatoes, crushed by hand

    • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

    • 1 tbsp. paprika

    • 1/4 tsp. pinch celery seed

    • 1 bay leaf

    • A pinch of sugar

    • 1/4 cup Texas Pete hot sauce

    • 2 lb. catfish filet, cut into 1-inch pieces

    • Salt and pepper, to taste


Preparation

  1. Add bacon to a stewpot over medium heat and cook until rendered and crisp. Then add onion, celery, carrot, and garlic, and continue to cook until softened, about 5-10 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, the next 6 ingredients, and 1½ cups of water. Bring the mixture to a simmer, and then add a few pieces of catfish and cover. Simmer for 40 minutes, or until both catfish and vegetables are very tender. Add the rest of the catfish, and continue to cook uncovered for 10-15 minutes, or until fish is flaky. Season with salt and pepper, and serve in bowls over rice.

Adapted from Elliott Moss, Buxton Hall Barbecue, Asheville, North Carolina

Chef's Tip:

Most catfish stew recipes call for cooks to add the fish at the end, so it doesn’t overcook. Moss adds some pieces earlier in the process, and lets them melt into the simmering stew. “That way you get those big pieces, but also fish flavor in each bite,” he says. It’s a good way to use up any scraps that remain after you cut the uneven filets into big, tasty chunks.


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