Catfish Mousse with Crayfish Sauce
Catfish, that lowly creature of the South, is now readily available all over the U.S. Its delicate flavor works well in many preparations and marries well with shellfish. This is an impressive dish, but easy to make. The sauce and mousse mixture can be prepared a day in advance and kept refrigerated. The sauce should be reheated slowly, and the mousse should be whisked together before filling the molds.
- Crayfish Sauce
- Olive Oil - 3 tablespoons
- Vegetable Oil - 3 tablespoons
- Live Crayfish - 1-1/2 to 2 pounds
- Carrot - 1 medium, peeled and chopped
- Leek - 1, white part only, cleaned and chopped
- Celery - 1 stalk, chopped
- Garlic Clove - 1, crushed
- Parsley - 3 tablespoons, chopped fresh
- Thyme - 2 sprigs (alt. 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme)
- Bourbon - 6 tablespoons
- Dry White Wine
- Tomato paste - 1-1/2 tablespoons
- Heavy (whipping) cream - 1-1/2 cups
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Catfish Mousse
- Catfish Fillets - 1/2 pound, fresh skinless, coarsely chopped
- Egg - 1
- Egg Yolk - 1
- Milk - 1/4 cup
- Heavy (whipping) cream - 1/2 cup
- Salt - 1/2 teaspoon
- Pinch of cayenne
To make the sauce: Heat the oils in a 12- or 14-inch saute pan or skillet over high heat. Add the crayfish, cover the skillet, and cook for 5 minutes, shaking the pan often. Remove the crayfish from the pan. Set aside the four best-looking crayfish for the garnish. When cool enough to handle, break the bodies apart from the tails. Pinch the tails to press out the meat and set the tails aside. Place all the tail shells and bodies in a blender or food processor and crush.
Reheat the pan over medium heat and add the carrot, leek, celery, garlic, parsley, and thyme. Cook gently for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Deglaze with the bourbon. Avert your face and ignite the bourbon, shaking the pan until the flames die down. Cover the pan to stop the flaming and cook over medium heat until reduced by half. Stir in the white wine, tomato paste, and crushed shells. Return to a boil and reduce by half.
Stir in the cream, reduce the heat, and simmer slowly for 10 minutes. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve into a saucepan, pressing down on the solids with the back of a wooden spoon to extract all the juice. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.
To make the mousse: Grind the catfish through the finest blade of a meat grinder or puree in a blender or processor. Press the fish through a fine-meshed sieve to remove any bones.
In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs, egg yolk, milk, and cream. Whisk into the fish, add salt and cayenne, and stir thoroughly.
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Butter eight 1/3-cup ramekins or custard cups and divide the catfish mixture among them. Put the molds into a baking dish and pour boiling water into the dish until it comes halfway up the sides of the molds. Trim a piece of parchment paper to fit on top of the pan, then cover the entire pan with aluminum foil so no steam escapes. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the molds are set and firm to the touch.
To serve: Stir the crayfish tails into the sauce and heat. Unmold a catfish mousse onto each warmed serving plate. Cover with crayfish sauce, studding the sauce on the plates with crayfish tails. Garnish each plate with one whole crayfish.