Mystery House



Mahalia’s Catfish Stew

This is the sort of recipe that makes me excited about the leftovers.  There are googobs of celebrity cookbooks in our world, many of which seem to be simply marketing ploys.  A few, however, are the real deal, books written by stars who happen to be good cooks and want to share their passion for food.  I got lucky when I snagged a copy of Mahalia Jackson Cooks Soul at one of my favorite junking haunts.  Um, that price on Amazon?  I’m not crazy.  You can see what I paid–the antique dealer’s notation is still inside.

Cookbook Price 1

Ninety-five cents less than the original list price!  A bargain no matter how you add it up.

Cookbook Price 2

As I’ve noted here before, I love unusual and funky cookbooks.  I love them for their own sake, just to read, and it doesn’t always matter if I cook from them.  But this week, I thought I’d try a recipe from a sleeper, a book with no hype attached to it, one I knew nothing about.  Why not find out what the Queen of Gospel has to offer?  (Here, start your day right and listen to a little bit of “Didn’t It Rain” while you read the recipe.)

Well.  Let me tell you.  This woman didn’t just know how to belt out a song, she could cook, too.  The M.E. walked in the house while the broth was simmering and said, “Damn, that smells good.”  I had to distract him with a glass of wine so he wouldn’t start dipping into the pot before it was done.  This is a simple recipe, but don’t let that fool you.  It’s got flavor as big as Ms. Jackson’s voice.

Catfish Stew, adapted from Mahalia Jackson Cooks Soul
4 main course servings, probably 6 first course servings (unless people get carried away)

1 lb. catfish filets
5 strips thick-cut bacon
1 cup chopped scallions
14.5 oz can tomatoes, with juice
2 potatoes, diced (I used skin-on Yukon Golds)
1/4 c. catsup
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. thyme
dash of cayenne

Brown bacon, drain on paper towels and cut into small pieces.

Pour off all but about a tablespoon of bacon grease.  Cook scallions in grease until tender.

Catfish Stew 1

Add tomatoes (crush them as you put them in), one cup water, catsup and seasonings.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring now and then to scrape up the bacony goodness from the bottom of the pot.

Catfish Stew 2

Add potatoes and cook, covered, until they’re a minute or two away from being done.  Then add the catfish and cook no more than another 3 to 5 minutes, until fish is done.

Catfish Stew 3

I served this with kale cooked with garlic and white wine (check out that authentic steam!),

Kale

and some amazing Portuguese Broa from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

Broa

The verdict?  We inhaled dinner and wanted to start all over again.  It was that good.  Fortunately, good sense prevailed and we put the leftovers away.  Yes, in the refrigerator.

If you ever see a copy of Mahalia Jackson’s book in a used bookstore, snatch it and run to the register.  I was sorry to learn that she died in 1972, only two years after her marvelous cookbook was published, so I can’t write her a letter to thank her.  I hope she somehow knows that her book has become one of the treasures of my collection.  Every time I pick it up I’ll picture her dining on catfish stew in heaven.

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Comments

  1. * Chris says:

    Mmmmm… Ah, the sort of bookhunting deal one dreams of! 🙂

    Posted 9 years, 8 months ago
  2. * Jeanice says:

    You are so strong to not have stuffed yourself. I think I would have eaten that whole loaf of bread-It looks simply scrumptious!!

    Posted 9 years, 8 months ago
  3. * Jeanice says:

    You are so strong to not have stuffed yourself. I think I would have eaten that whole loaf of bread-It looks simply scrumptious!!

    Posted 9 years, 8 months ago
  4. * Lisa says:

    Yeah, Mahalia’s in the Upper Room now… but that stew looks fantastic. Bookmarked, and thank you.

    Posted 9 years, 8 months ago
  5. * olga says:

    You know- you need to stop using cook books, they are just a crutch! REAL cooks just fly by the seat of their pants…….

    Posted 9 years, 8 months ago
  6. * bezzie says:

    You had me at “bacon grease and scallions..”
    MMM!!!

    Posted 9 years, 8 months ago
  7. * Connie says:

    I have printed this recipe out for a try next week. My kids love catfish…albeit the deep fried stuff…but hopefully they will like this. We have the catfish in the freezer right now!

    Posted 9 years, 8 months ago
  8. * Connie says:

    I have printed this recipe out for a try next week. My kids love catfish…albeit the deep fried stuff…but hopefully they will like this. We have the catfish in the freezer right now!

    Posted 9 years, 8 months ago
  9. * del says:

    I had no idea Mahalia Jackson published a cookbook. That catfish stew looks absolutely yummy, especially with all the accoutrements. I’m definitely going to try this one.

    Posted 9 years, 8 months ago
  10. * del says:

    I had no idea Mahalia Jackson published a cookbook. That catfish stew looks absolutely yummy, especially with all the accoutrements. I’m definitely going to try this one.

    Posted 9 years, 8 months ago
  11. * Carrie K says:

    I had no idea she had cookbook out either! It figures. She sure can sing.

    Posted 9 years, 8 months ago
  12. * Ginger says:

    I didn’t know Mahalia Jackson had a cookbook either, but yea it figures…lol She was from Louisiana afterall. But that catfish stew looks amazing!!!!!!! Gotta try that one.

    Posted 8 years, 4 months ago
  13. * Ginger says:

    I didn’t know Mahalia Jackson had a cookbook either, but yea it figures…lol She was from Louisiana afterall. But that catfish stew looks amazing!!!!!!! Gotta try that one.

    Posted 8 years, 4 months ago


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