A cultural classic | Hugh Acheson’s Catfish Stew
Written by: Marlène Osteen | Publish: Winter 2022
Hugh Acheson’s Classic Catfish Stew is steeped in history, with a hard core of pain at its heart.
Perhaps you’ve landed on another page in this month’s issue on Hugh Acheson, star chef of The Farm at Old Edwards, and been intrigued and wowed by its flavors and history.
The recipe here for Catfish Stew, reprinted from his book, The Chef and the Slow Cooker, will give you a taste of his unique take on Southern culinary history and a taste of the bold flavor that catapulted him to the celebrity rank.
Hugh Acheson’s Catfish Stew
For 4 to 6 people
“Is this the south? I mean, what is southern food? Got six months to discuss multiple cases of bourbon? There will be tears and a struggle of emotions and probably a real struggle too. In short, the idea of a catfish stew is widely spread in West Africa, especially Nigeria, and the very similar method and results of this stew existed before George Washington’s parents. reach first base. So yes, it’s a Southern recipe, because it exists in our Southern Cooking tome, but it had a different cultural meaning long before that and only exists here because of slavery. This is true for much of the Southern culinary canon and now is the time to recognize where much of our precious gastronomy has come from and the pain that brought it to the table. So go cook some food and get around the table and talk about where all these flavors come from and what it all means. Because that means a lot.
1 28-ounce can plum plum tomatoes
½ pound bacon slice, diced
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 whole cloves
1 teaspoon of ground mace
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2 cups of clam juice
2 cups of fish broth or vegetable broth
1 pound fingerling potatoes, cut into 1-inch-long rounds
2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon of hot sauce
1½ pound catfish fillets, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
¼ cup chopped parsley
½ cup marinated banana peppers, thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat a slow cooker on high power for at least 15 minutes.
2. Place the can of tomatoes and their liquid in a food processor and mix to break them down a bit.
3. Place a large skillet over medium heat, add the bacon and cook for 10 minutes or until most of the fat has melted. Add the onions, peppers and celery and cook for 2 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for another 1 minute. Remove from the heat and add the mixture to the slow cooker.
4. Add the tomatoes, cloves, mace, allspice, clam juice, broth, potatoes and 1 teaspoon of salt to the slow cooker. Cook for 4 hours over low heat. The potatoes should be fork tender at this point.
5. Add the Worcestershire, hot sauce and half a teaspoon of salt.
6. Season the catfish pieces with half a teaspoon of salt, then add them to the slow cooker and cook for 20 minutes. Add the butter to the saucepan, stir gently, then pour the stew into a tureen or individual bowls. Garnish with parsley, banana peppers and finish with a grind of black pepper and additional salt to taste.
by Marlene Osteen