A catfish gumbo is one of the simplest and most satisfying ways to prepare fish—enough to warm the heart after a difficult day. No more need be said, except to invite friends.

*Chef Lucia Watson owns and operates Lucia’s, one of Minneapolis, Minnesota’s, most distinctive restaurants (1432 West 31st Street, 612/825-1572).

1/2 lb. bacon, diced
1 c. each onion, celery, green pepper, and red pepper, diced
1 tsp. garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp. each white pepper, thyme, and oregano
1/8 tsp. cayenne (or to taste)
8 c. chicken broth
1 lb. smoked sausage, sliced 3/4 inch thick on a bias
1 lb. fish, one-inch cubes

■ Sauté bacon and reserve. Heat the bacon fat until it just begins to smoke, then add an equal amount of flour. Whisk until the mixture (roux) turns the color of a brown paper bag.
■ Add onion, celery, green pepper, red pepper, garlic, cayenne, white pepper, thyme, oregano, the reserved bacon, and chicken broth. Cook gently for 15 minutes.
■ Add the smoked sausage and fish. Simmer gently for about seven minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve garnished with cooked white rice.
■ Better grades of catfish make a better gumbo. But a gumbo also gives equal time to other fish catfish anglers might catch, like stripers and sheepshead. It’s also a good opportunity to use frozen catfish.

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