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Catfish Sauce Piquant

3 pounds whole catfish -- (or rock cod or lingcod) weighed without the head
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1/4 cup oil
1/3 cup celery - chopped
1/4 cup bell pepper - chopped
1/4 cup onion - chopped
1/4 cup parsley - chopped
1/4 cup green onions - chopped
2 tablespoons fresh garlic - minced
1/2 cup water
1 cup tomatoes - preferably fresh peeled and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup flour
cooked rice

Wash the fish and peel the skin off (or have it done at the fish market) and cut it crosswise in slices 1 to 1-1/2 inches thick. You may use the tail. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne and set aside. In a large skillet, heat the oil and add celery, bell pepper, onion, parsley, green onions, and garlic. Saut over fairly high heat 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the water and tomatoes and simmer 10 minutes more. Sprinkle the flour over the fish or roll each piece of fish in flour until coated lightly. Gently place the fish, piece by piece, in the sauce. Cover the pan and simmer about 10 minutes. With spatula, turn each piece of fish over and shake pan gently to combine juices. (Do not stir, for that will break up the fish). Simmer over the very lowest heat until the fish is cooked through (another 10 minutes). Serve Immediately over rice.

Chicken Sauce Piquant: Substitute a 3-pound frying chicken, cut into serving pieces. Season the chicken with salt, pepper and cayenne to taste, dust with flour, and brown it on all sides in hot oil. Remove from the oil and saut the vegetables, as above. After tomatoes have simmered, return chicken to the skillet and simmer, covered, about 15 minutes; turn over each piece and simmer, covered, about 10 minutes longer.

Serve hot over rice.

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