Todd Masson is known for many things. For 18 years, the journalist was editor of this very magazine. After that he was the outdoors writer for the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Now he is “Marsh Man Masson,” the YouTube hero who spends time chasing down and videoing denizens of the marsh — critters like speckled trout, redfish, blue crabs, bass and shrimp. All of his adventures are chronicled on his own channel.
Almost everyone that fishes in Southeast Louisiana has heard his name — but never for cooking. He estimates he cooks 99 percent of the meals that wife Brandi, son Joel and he eat at home. But it wasn’t always that way.
“I cooked zero — nothing ever when I married Brandi. It started when Joel became extremely interested in cooking.“
“I would watch cooking shows on TV 24-7,” interjected Joel, with some exaggeration.
“So I began to pick up things by osmosis,” Todd continued. “I tried new things. I love good food….”
“And he hates fast food,” Joel said, finishing the sentence. The 19-year-old now serves as his father’s chief taste-tester.
Ironically, Joel has for the present time quit cooking, mainly to concentrate on fishing — and writing.
He also is a regular contributor to Louisiana Sportsman, with monthly fishing reports and three or four feature stories appearing annually.
Todd’s flexible schedule offers him ample cooking opportunities, so Brandi typically comes home from work to a warm meal every evening.
“I cook more seafood than anything else, probably 75 percent of the time,” he said. “I’m a big fan of the Louisiana Seafood Bible cookbook series, especially the shrimp, crab and crawfish volumes.
“It is instantly gratifying when people rant and rave about your cooking.”
“I think this dish evolved from crawfish étouffée, but I really don’t know,” Todd said, furrowing his brow. “The basil and bacon in it are kind of unusual additions — garlic, too.
“I used to use olive oil for my rouxs, then because everything tastes better with bacon, I began using bacon fat. I add the bacon back into the dish later. Basil entered the recipe because I grow it and I like it.
“I use basil a lot in pestos and meat sauces, what I believe Italians call ‘red gravies.’”
He has been cooking the dish for at least five years. This version used shrimp, crabmeat and crawfish tail meat, but Todd noted that the dish is good with just one or two of the “proteins,” as he called them.
This is a solid stew — it’s not a soup. You can eat it with a fork.
TIP: Flour in bacon fat browns quickly, so watch the roux closely.
- 3/4 lb. Wright bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
- Flour in an amount equal to the bacon fat
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1/3 bell pepper, chopped
- 11/2 tbsp. bouillon
- 1 tsp. chopped garlic
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
- 11/2 tbsp. creole seasoning
- 1 lb. small peeled shrimp
- 1 lb. peeled crawfish
- 1 lb. crab claw meat
- 3 bay leaves
PREPARATION: Serves 6-8.
Fry the bacon in a large pot until it’s crispy. Remove the bacon and set it aside. Add the flour to the bacon fat over high heat and stir constantly, making a medium-brown roux. Stir in the onion, celery and bell pepper, and sauté over reduced heat until tender. Add cups of water and mix well. Stir in the bouillon, garlic and basil. Add creole seasoning and return the bacon to the pot. Add shrimp, crawfish, crabmeat and bay leaves, and stir well. Simmer until desired thickness has been obtained. Serve over rice.
Todd’s Broiled Fish
This dish is one of Todd’s favorites. “We cook this all the time. It’s a staple and has been for eight or 10 years,” he said. “Everybody needs to make this dish. It’s so easy and so good.
“When you come home from a fishing trip, you’re tired, but you have plenty of fish. You’re hungry and you want to eat quickly without a whole lot of effort. This takes 10 minutes, counting prep time.
“It’s so easy, I didn’t know if it was worthy of being called a recipe. Every cook will have every ingredient on hand — absolutely.”
Todd usually makes this with speckled trout, and secondarily bass. Redfish, he claims, won’t work.
- Olive oil
- 2 lbs. speckled trout or bass fillets
- Creole seasoning to taste
- Italian bread crumbs
PREPARATION: Serves 4-6.
Move the rack to the top of your oven. Set the oven to broil/high, and preheat. Generously pour olive oil into an oven-proof dish. Place the fish fillets in the pan. If the olive oil doesn’t reach about halfway up the sides of the fish, add more. Sprinkle with creole seasoning to taste. Cut small pats of butter and place them on the top of each fillet. Top with Italian bread crumbs. Broil for nine minutes exactly: 10 minutes is too long. The fish should be golden brown. Serve on pasta.