Louisiana-Style Fish Courtbouillon
  • 1 white-fleshed fish such as rockfish or freshwater drum (gaspergou), 2 to 3 pounds
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice berries
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1⁄2 cup diced celery
  • 1⁄2 cup diced green bell pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, or 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 3 sprigs parsley
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 can (15 ounces) peeled tomatoes
  • 1 1⁄2 cups dry red wine
  • 3 cups water
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
  • Kosher salt
  • lemon juice
Time estimates

Prep time: 10 min  

Cook time: 50 min  

Total time: 1 hr  


  1. Have the fish scaled and cut crosswise into 2-inch sections; reserve the head.
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.
  3. Add the flour and cook, stirring frequently to avoid scorching, until the roux is a rich medium brown.
  4. Add the allspice, diced vegetables, garlic, and herbs to the pot (carefully, so as not to spatter the hot roux) and stir to coat them with the roux.
  5. Cook for another 5 minutes, until the onion softens. Meanwhile, empty the tomato can into a bowl and chop the tomatoes coarsely with a spoon, or crush them in your hand.
  6. Add to the pot with the wine, water, cayenne, and a large pinch of salt.
  7. Add the fish head, bring just to a boil, and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.
  8. Remove the fish head. Taste the sauce for salt and adjust if necessary.
  9. Add the lemon juice, then slide in the fish pieces and cook at a simmer until the fish is tender when probed with a fork, about 10 minutes.
  10. Serve the fish in deep plates or soup bowls, with sauce spooned over each portion.


Serves 4

Good to know

For a really authentic courtbouillon, we can use the same kind of fish that southern cooks use. Gaspergou is the [skipwords]Louisiana[/skipwords] name for a good-sized freshwater drum (a relative of the more famous redfish as well as our white seabass) fished commercially in much of the Midwest and South. Between Americans from the South and certain Asian ethnic groups that favor freshwater fish, there is a steady market for this fish in many parts of the West, and we import it by the ton from the [skipwords]Mississippi[/skipwords] Delta. In fact, this silvery, hump-backed, blunt-nosed fish is often easier to find as whole fish than anything from local waters. However, you can certainly make this dish with local rockfish, lingcod, cabezon, or any other white-fleshed fish.

Which beer should I drink with this?

Pale lager.

Also from The Microbrew Lover's Cookbook

The Microbrew Lover’s Cookbook 

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From The Microbrew Lover’s Cookbook, Copyright © 2002 by Jay Harlow. Used by arrangement with Jay Harlow.


Photo: Shoot Art, Not Each Other/Flickr