My Pa Pa Trahan was part of a big family that lived on a rice farm just south of Louisiana’s Highway 335, south of Kaplan. He and four of his brothers married and homesteaded in the same area. They continued to grow rice, accumulating more land and raising their families near one another. I don’t know if they were given much of a choice in choosing which profession or way of providing for their families, but I would like to think they chose rice farming because it was a good way of life. There probably wasn’t much the Trahan brothers and their families didn’t do together. Working in the fields, going to church and school, attending social events and shopping in the same stores in the same town made them have much in common. They were a close community. I enjoy hearing stories from that generation of how life was lived. Mama said there was a sense of freedom they had to adventure into the woods and the fields around them whether it was riding horses or swimming in the freshly pumped well-watered canal, they always felt protected. Their parents didn’t seem to be filled with anxiety or they never demonstrated it before them. Oh, to give that to our children today! Only by God’s grace, Amen!
Another thing Pa Pa and his brothers would do together was take a fishing trip to the Vermilion Bay. On one occasion, they decided to invite their wives and that sent the sisters-in-law shopping for something they did not own. A pair of pants. At that time, ladies wore dresses. House dresses for day work, dresses and suits with skirts for church, funerals, weddings and other such places. Seldom do I remember seeing Ma Ma in a pair of pants.
One day, when we had driven up to my grandparents’ house, Pa Pa and some other men folk had just returned from one of those fishing trips. They were outside unloading their catch and I remember the excitement of seeing him and the fish they caught. I was very young so I can’t recall all of the details of that day, but one thing I’ll never forget is the way Ma Ma Trahan would prepare fish in red gravy served over white rice. She cooked it low and slow so the seasonings and vegetables could meld together and of course she started with a roux!
Mama makes the same red gravy and it’s one of our family’s favorites. Although, I’ve made it before I couldn’t remember the details. So this past Labor Day, with her instructions, I nailed this recipe down and it was delicious! I usually season most of my dishes with my own blend of salt, garlic granules and cayenne pepper, but this time I decided to use one of those Cajun seasoning blends. When the first of those packaged seasonings came out some years ago, I was so happy to have the convenience of Cajun spices already prepared in one shaker that I shook it on everything. Even on my eggs in the morning. Until I got burned out on it. Recently, a seasoning brand had gotten my attention on Instagram. I decided to go to our Jade Foods and see if they had it and what do you know? Yes, they had some “SLAP YA MAMA” Cajun seasoning right on their shelf! So I tried it in A RED GRAVY FOR YOUR FISH recipe and I am pleasantly pleased. I like it because it’s not loaded with a bunch of spices, but rather a simple blend of salt, red pepper, black pepper and garlic.
It doesn’t take away from the taste of the food, but adds just enough of that “SLAP” of seasoning you want in a good fish dish. And it’s even good on eggs! Here’s the recipe:
A RED GRAVY FOR YOUR FISH
3 pounds catfish fillets (or any firm textured fish)
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup flour
3/4 cup red, yellow and orange bell peppers, chopped
3/4 cup celery, chopped
1-1/2 cup onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, pressed
2 – 15 ounce cans crushed tomatoes
2 – 4 ounce cans green chillies, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon “Slap Ya Mama” Cajun Seasoning (or more depending how much of a slap you care for)
Make a roux by heating oil then add flour to hot oil and stir on medium heat until roux is a dark caramel color. Take your time not to burn the roux. Add vegetables and cook 10 minutes on medium-low heat stirring often.
Add tomatoes, green chillies and seasonings. Cook on low heat on the stove for 2-3 hours stirring occasionally or transfer into a crock pot and cook for at least a few hours hours.
Transfer the gravy to a large, heavy pot and add the seasoned fish. Cook on low heat for 30 minutes or until fish is done.
Garnish with parsley and serve fish with gravy over rice.
“If the devil cannot make us bad, he will make us busy.” Corrie Ten Boom