Catfish Court-Bouillon

Thank ya'll for your response and comments to my preview article. It was inspirational, and now here's my second one. As stated by the editor, the subject matter will be diverse, but for this one, I’d like to stay in the food section. I have lived in many places, North Carolina, Louisiana, Texas, Chicago, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming. Through my years on the road in touring bands, I have had the opportunity to visit just about every state in this great country of ours. This opportunity has allowed me to taste a wide variety of regional foods; here are a few of my standout favorites.

We're in the heart of winter, and that's the time I think about hot bowls of soups and stews. In Louisiana, it's Gumbo, Etouffee, Red beans and Rice and my favorite, Catfish Court-Bouillon. It is pronounced “Coor-bore yon.” It's a spicy catfish stew and paired with rice. Last time I checked, Farmer Lake had plenty of catfish, so they're waiting for you.

For us Tarheels, and parts of the south, Brunswick stew fills the bill, and it's also lenient in ingredients, and preparation. North Carolina claims to be the original source of the stew based on Brunswick County. Georgia also claims it, as being from the city of Brunswick GA.

I prefer our version. The common ingredients are chicken and pork, sometimes beef, but originally it was made with game, mostly squirrels and rabbits. And the vegetables are corn, lima beans, potatoes, tomatoes, onions and spices. In Georgia the corn is creamed, so it's thick, but here, it's the whole kernel. Cornbread is a common side, and it's almost standard. When I lived in Gastonia, NC my family would drive to Charlotte, for BBQ at Rogers BBQ, but we went mainly for the Brunswick stew and cornbread.

The cornbread was thin and soft, cut in pie wedges, and I’ve never had any other like it. I make mine in muffin tins w/ honey, jalapenos and shoepeg white corn. In Kentucky it's called Burgoo and is claimed to have been brought there by a French chef. I've worked under a few French chefs, and I never saw one of them cook anything like that. Many local organizations around here sell Brunswick stew as a fund-raising product, and I've heard they’re all good with their own various secret recipes. Here in Anderson people claim the Anderson Volunteer Fire Dept makes the best they’ve had. Sounds right to me, but only a Brunswick stew contest could settle that.

And that brings us to chili. Every region, every family, every cook, has a recipe and style for it. My wife even has a vegetarian version. Here, we add beans, but in most of Texas, beans are rarely used in chili. Some use ground beef, diced beef roast, and some combine the two. In Cincinnati, OH they have 5- way chili, and it's a little sweeter and customized to the guest’s preference. It’s available plain, with diced onion, shredded cheddar cheese, on a bed of spaghetti noodles, and topped w/ a dollop of sour cream.

With 5 - way, you get everything. The guest decides how they want it. I like it with everything but onion and sour cream. Whatever floats your bowl. As far as that goes, a big pot of pintos and cornbread is fine.

When you travel north up the North Eastern coast, chowder is the dish everyone wants. The New England style is milk and cream based, and the Manhattan is tomato based. Once again, it depends on your preference. As far as that goes we also have oyster stew, an original here and New Orleans claims its own version which is a traditional holiday dish or for special occasions. Oyster crackers go with all these dishes.

It is a cold, rainy Friday night here in Anderson and I decided it was the perfect night for some Catfish Court-Bouillon; it surely will feed the body and warm the soul. On a cold winter night, I’m happy with a bowl of any of these, so dig in.