Simmered down in a spicy tomato-based sauce, the tender fillets of fish take on the exotic flavors of a classic Cajun specialty—Sheepshead Sauce Piquante.
So what’s a sheepshead, you might ask? Unless you are an experienced coastal fisherman along the shores of Louisiana, you may not have run into this species of Gulf finfish. With broad, vertical black stripes and teeth that resemble a human’s, a sheepshead is not especially pretty. And for that reason, you’ll seldom see them in stores or on restaurant menus.
But Captain Quincy Verret specializes in them. Under the brand Captain Quincy’s Seafood, he is one of several commercial fishermen that brings sheepshead to market.
From his processing plant on Bayou Dularge in Terrebonne Parish, he sells the fillets directly in vacuum-packed bags, and distributes them through Louisiana Direct Seafood retailers. You’ll find the flash-frozen fillets in the case at Gonsoulin Farm Store, The Market at Broussard Commons, and from Josh Boudreaux’s Southern Seafood. I recommend you call ahead to make sure they have it.
Sheepshead is a delicacy to those in the know. I recall catching them along the pilings in Lake Borgne while fishing for speckled trout, and I can assure you their white, firm flesh is tasty. They hold up to a long simmer and are perfect for my spicy Cajun recipe for Sheepshead Sauce Piquante.
Try this classic Cajun recipe and discover new flavors.
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 cups diced yellow onion
- 1 cup diced green bell pepper
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon cayenne
- 1 tablespoon Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here
- 3 cups seafood stock
- 2 tablespoons dark Cajun roux, such as Rox’s Roux
- 1 cup chopped ripe tomatoes
- 1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chiles, drained, such as Rotel
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Dash of hot sauce
- 3 pounds sheepshead fillets, all bones removed
- 4 cups cooked Louisiana long-grain white rice, such as Supreme
- 1 cup diced green onion tops
- In a large Dutch oven or cast-iron pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat, add the oil along with the onion, bell pepper, and celery. Cook until the onions turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the parsley and garlic. Season with cayenne and Cajun seasoning.
- Add the stock and roux; stir to dissolve the roux and bring to a boil.
- Add the tomatoes, Rotel, and stir.
- Lower the heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook for 1 hour, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes.
- Remove the lid, taste the sauce; adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, and hot sauce.
- Just before serving, add the fish fillets and submerge them in the sauce. Bring the pot to a simmer and cook until the fish is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Be sure not to stir the fish to prevent it from breaking up.
- For serving, spoon pieces of fish and sauce over a mound of white rice; garnish with green onion tops.
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Sheepshead is a delicious white fish. Easy to catch around pilings; they eat the barnacles. As kids, we used to catch ’em with chunky peanut butter on bread dough balls. They were always under the bridge. Recipe ain’t bad. Mmmm!
Marsha Miller says
Bruce Thevenot says
During my childhood in Avoyelles Parish, my Dad would occasionally use gaspergou (freshwater drum) in a sauce piquant similar to this. He also would bake a larger gaspergou in the oven from time to time, albeit without a roux. Both dishes were superb. Fresh caught gaspergou were available intermittently from a fish market in Simmesport. They were caught, I believe, from either the Atchafalaya River or it’s tributary bayous. Your recipe makes me want to relive something like that experience. Thanks and all the best.
Dripping Springs, TX
What would be a good fish substitute if one lived in North Dakota? Here the sheepshead is a completely different fish. The sheepshead here is a freshwater drum.
George Graham says
Mike – While I’m not familiar with the local fish species in North Dakota, I urge you to choose a white flaky fish fillet rather than a firm, oily fish. All the best.
Joseph Devillier says
Freshwater Drum is what we catch in the Atchafalaya River here. I caught a 12 pounder last week and baked it in the oven. Fantastic fish to eat. If you have them there, try it, you’ll love it.