George Washington Loved to Fish: Try one of his favorite dishes, Curry of Catfish

What you’ll need to make: Curry of Catfish

  • 1 pound of boneless catfish, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 handfuls of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • 3 to 4 cups of water or chicken broth
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp. of curry powder
  • 2 Tbsp. of butter
  • 2 Tbsp. of flour
  • Salt and pepper

Here’s how: 

  1. In butter or oil, sauté the onions, along with one handful of parsley. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. When the onions are translucent, add the catfish, along with 3 to 4 cups of water or broth.
  3. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook the fish until firm, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the fish from the liquid and put into a covered dish.
  4. Bring the remaining liquid to a boil and reduce it to one cup.
  5. In a separate pan, make a roux with the butter and flour by melting the fat and adding the flour. Whisk until the mixture is golden, one to two minutes. Add the curry powder and combine with the mixture. Let cool.
  6. Add the curry and butter mixture to the hot liquid and bring it up to a boil. Stir until thickened.
  7. Take the gravy off the heat and stir in the cooked catfish. Cover and let the flavors combine for a few minutes.
  8. Serve over rice. (Although not in the recipe, other condiments such as scallions and chutney work wonderfully with this dish.)

Recipe from: “The Virginia Housewife,” by Mary Randolph

Did you know: Curries were very popular in the British diet during the period. Although inspired by the East Indies, this dish was invented in Great Britain. The catfish makes it a uniquely American recipe. Perhaps not holding the status of sturgeon or rockfish, catfish was showing acceptance by the second half of the 18th century. Fish was traditionally the second course at the Washingtons’ dinner table.

Many thanks to the historians at Mount Vernon opened the doors — and the outdoor kitchen — to welcome three of our Grateful American™ Kids, AJ, Avery, and Callie. They prepared two dishes the Washington’s and their guests would have enjoyed: curry of catfish and peas porridge.

These students from Longfellow Middle School in Fairfax County, VA, were our reporters for the day as they were guided through a Revolutionary cooking lesson by Deborah Colburn, the interpretive programs supervisor at Mount Vernon, and her colleague, interpreter Sara Marie Massee.

Click here to watch the students prepare this delicious recipe.