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Sep 10, 2008 07:34 PM

Local seafood, from redfish to choupique and gar?

I've realized that Louisiana cookbooks dominate my collection, with about a dozen books. Katrina foiled an earlier trip, but we're planning a visit in mid-December. I have a strong interest in local traditions and products and would really like to try authentic preparations of classic dishes. Therefore, any recommendations on restaurants for

1. blackened redfish (overpopularized I know, but from what I've read, an original Louisiana technique. I've had other fishes blackened here in California, and have done it myself, but am curious about the "real thing." If I'm lucky fishing, I will have fresh filets if any kitchen will prep them).

2. catfish or redfish courtbouillon

3. pompano in papillote (is this served anymore?)

4. barbecued shrimp

5. trout amandine (I may also have fresh trout filets)

6. crawfish etouffee (I know they will be out of season, but will settle for frozen)

Tips on gumbo, turtle soup, and anything else anyone cares to add are much appreciated.

Also, any pointers on some more obscure species? Would love to try goo, gar and choupique, especially as filets or steaks, and am interested in choupique caviar. I know they're considered "trash fish" by many in other parts of the country, which makes them all the more appealing to me. Any other local specialties are of interest. Don't mind poking around in the Atchafalaya basin or other outlying areas, and dives and shacks are perfectly fine. The more local character, the better.

Finally, are there any authentic food traditions available from the Coushatta or Chitimacha? No casino food please. Thanks.

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  1. Blackened fish, go to the source - K-Paul's.

    Cochon does court bouillon, but I didn't really like it. It was very tangy, vinegary. Luke does a good court bouillon for a Friday lunch special.

    bbq shrimp - the best are in Metairie at Crazy Johnny's although Pascal's Manale claims the original.

    Trout amandine - Mandina's.

    Etouffee - I'm not sure, but I would think Cafe Bon Ton would do a respectable job.

    Commander's has excellent turtle soup and gumbo. Brigtsen's does a good gumbo. Heck, a lot of places have good gumbo. Try as many as you can.

    As for the obscure fish, I've lived in LA my whole life and while I've seen fish like gar and goo for sale at roadside stands, I've never seen them prepared in any restaurant. Not to say that they aren't. In fact, I'm sure some place prepares dishes with those fish. I just can't point you in any particular direction. Down the bayou is your best bet. Some soul food joint somewhere out in the country has to have gar balls or buffalo ribs. If you do find gar or goo on the menu, it probably won't be filleted or steaks. The only way I've had gar and grenald prepared well was in a croquette or "ball." Those two fish are too bony to get good fillets from. Furthermore, Goo is not a tasty fish. You can fillet them, but yummy they are not. I'm interested what others have to say.

    Oddly enough, I've seen choupique (bowfin or grenald) caviar around town at some of our finer establishments as of late. A lunch at Adelaide featured a dish festooned with the eggs of the lowly, ugly fish. Unfortunately, I can't say if they still have it on the menu. I think I also saw a jar of bowfin caviar in whole foods maybe? Back by the cheese section. Or it could have been Martin's? I'm not sure. Anyway, best of luck.

    1. Try Galatoire's for the pompano and trout. K-Paul's on rare occasions has blackened redfish. These days their usual blackened fish is drum. Brigtsen's has an excellent blackened tuna with roasted corn sauce topped with a bit of red bean salsa and avacado cream. IMO best turtle soup is at Commander's. Their gumbo is good as well. Stop by any of Ralph Brennan's rest. for a copy of his New Orleans Seafood Cookbook. Tempting recipes easily tweaked to your preferences.

      4 Replies
      1. re: JazzyB

        I'm a little confused; when I fisrt started hearing about dishes like blackened redfish 25 odd years ago, everything I read referred to "redfish (red drum)" and thus have always thought that redfish and drum were the same. Have I been mistaken all these years?

        1. re: Fydeaux

          No, you're not mistaken. The "drum" offered by restaurants in lieu of the now-illegal (commercially caught) redfish is BLACK drum, a fish we used to just throw back.

          1. re: Hungry Celeste

            Do they still have commercially caught speckled trout there. I thought they did away with that also. If so where does it come from. I live in Houston and have a freezer full of trout and am afraid Ike is going to ruin it. Im frying some tomorrow and grilling some Sunday after the storm, assuming no power. Any suggestions appreciated.

            1. re: James Cristinian

              Yes, commercially caught specks (aka spotted sea trout) is still available. Here's a link to the LA commercial fishing limits/regs for saltwater species: There is an annual quota cap, as well as a season.

              Here are the LA limits for speckled trout (and other saltwater species) for recreational fishermen: It's complicated, as limits change depending on where you're fishing.

      2. Try to catch some sheepshead aka bay snapper. Wonderful white, flaky meat. Great for ceviche, fish tacos, mock crabmeat, frying, etc. One of the tastiest inshore fish around.

        1. Thanks for all of the replies.

          N.O. Food--I appreciate the recommendations. I've actually had goo (freshwater drum). It was in Ohio, where people throw them back. It was a little oiler than walleye, and had more dark red flesh, but it wasn't bad. My brother-in-law couldn't tell the difference between the two. From what I've read, most people don't eat gar and bowfin. I don't mind bones--I enjoy buffalo. Since Soul Food and Cajun food often make delicious dishes from very little, I was hoping that the same magic would be applied to these "trash fish". Of course, if you grind things up with lots of spices and then deep fry them, you can disguise the taste of almost anything--that's why I want to find filets or chunks rather than balls. I guess I'll search the bayou.

          Jazzy B--I've got "Brennan's New Orleans Cookbook" (1961), but not Ralph Brennan's book--I'll keep an eye out for it.

          Cajun Caster--I've had sheepshead (and redfish/red drum, trout, black drum, Southern flounder, pompano, croakers...) and agree, they are delicious. Any particularly Louisianan way to prepare them? and how about other oddities, like gafftopsail catfish? As you can see, I enjoy the unconventional as well as the mainstream.

          4 Replies
          1. re: alfredck

            "Cajun Caster--I've had sheepshead (and redfish/red drum, trout, black drum, Southern flounder, pompano, croakers...) and agree, they are delicious. Any particularly Louisianan way to prepare them?"

            Don't know if they do this in Louisiana or not, but down the road on the Gulf Coast in Mississippi I've had sheepshead that were put in a cheesecloth bag and boiled in crab boil- they were wonderful!

            1. re: alfredck

              We have lots of bayous--just realize that thanks to coastal erosion, most of the freshwater species you seek are farther inland than you'd first guess.

              Interestingly, gar is widely eaten in the vietnamese fishing community; these folks have a great, efficient tradition of eating whatever they catch that has the lowest market value.

              1. re: Hungry Celeste

                Great!!-Know of any Vietnamese restaurants or fish markets with gar on the menu? I wonder what the preps are--grilled, fish balls, other?

                1. re: alfredck

                  BRS Seafood in Vacherie has gar burgers. My sis likes them. I have not tried them. I like their other food though. They also have frozen & live shrimp, fish, crabs etc. for sale.

            2. Humm the only place I know that does garfish balls is in Mansura, Louisiana (Cochon de lait capital of the world!). It's about a 3 hour drive from NO. They fry the garfish balls and then serve them with rice and gravy. On a side note they also have a really good butcher in the area T-Jim Moreau --- he does boudin, ponce, sausage etc. It is a long way out from NO though. That said---as others have stated you would be hard pressed to get a filet out of a garfish. Usually people cut them up vertically and get what meat they can rather than filet them.