Keeping it Real (Recipe: Shrimp and Crawfish Etouffee)
Southern cuisine has a famous first cousin. It’s called Cajun and it’s a welcomed member of the family and follows the principles of authentic Southern food: unpretentious, made from local ingredients and flavorful. The biggest difference is in the heat level. Cajuns definitely have more of an affinity for hot peppers in their everyday food.
There are two sources of bona-fide Cajun inspiration that I rely on to teach me the culture and the food: Paul Prudhomme and Justin Wilson. Both are well-respected chefs and authors. Justin Wilson had a cooking show on PBS before Food Network TV was a glimmer in some producer’s eye. He was famous for the catchphrase “I gawr-on-tee” and had a particular fondness for his “sippin’ wine” that stayed within reach while he was demonstrating his cooking skills. His trademark overalls, impressive girth and pleasant disposition created an endearing image in the eyes of his many fans, myself included. He was a raconteur (storyteller) in a class all to himself. Many of his TV shows are found on YouTube. Chef Paul Prudhomme has a different personality and isn’t quite as much a character and entertainer as Justin Wilson but there’s no mistaking his authority on Cajun cuisine and cooking talents. Among his many accomplishments is the famous New Orleans restaurant K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen which he opened in 1979 with his late wife, K.
Both of these gentleman have my admiration for staying true to their culture and keeping it real.
Etouffee is a classic Cajun dish that is simply shrimp or crawfish, or in my case both, stewed down in a gravy and served over rice. The romantic French name belies the rustic nature of this dish.
It’s good, I gawr-on-tee it!
Y’all come see us!
Shrimp and Crawfish Etouffee (pronounced eh-two-FAY)
I took inspiration from Paul Prudhomme’s recipe for Shrimp Etouffee. Judging from the amount of pepper (black, white and cayenne), Chef Prudhomme must have a stronger constitution than I can ever imagine. I reduced the amount of cayenne from 2 teaspoons to 1/4 teaspoon and the amount of white pepper from 1 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon. While his ingredient list didn’t specify kosher salt, that’s what I used. Using my modifications, the spice blend seemed perfectly balanced. The use of table salt instead of kosher salt would have made the blend too salty. I recommend making an adjustment to the amount of salt if you prefer table salt to kosher.
I substituted olive oil, a healthy fat, for some of the butter without compromising the flavor and richness of the dish. The original ingredient list called for 6 to 8 tablespoons of unsalted butter. I only used three.
Additionally, I increased the amount of vegetables in the trinity (onion, green bell pepper, celery). Instead of two pounds of shrimp, I used one pound of cooked crawfish tail meat and one pound of raw shrimp. If you have an aversion to crawfish, also called mudbugs, or can’t find them, use two pounds of raw shrimp instead.
3 cups seafood stock, divided. (If you don’t have seafood stock, substitute a good quality chicken or turkey stock but don’t use plain water.)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
10 to 11 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup celery with leaves, finely choppped
1/2 cup green bell pepper, finely chopped
3 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 pound peeled raw shrimp
1 pound crawfish tail meat, cooked, peeled and deveined
1 cup green onions, finely chopped
hot cooked rice
Mix salt, peppers, basil and thyme together. Set aside.
Heat 7 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy pot until smoking ( 3 to 4 minutes). Gradually whisk in flour. Whisk until roux is about the color of peanut butter (3 to 4 minutes). You must whisk constantly and don’t take your eye off the roux even for one minute. It starts browning quickly. If you burn the roux, dump it out and start over.
Remove from heat and add prepared onions, celery and bell pepper and one tablespoon of the dry seasoning mix. Keep stirring constantly until the roux has cooled, approximately 5 minutes.
Bring stock to boil in a large saucepan. Gradually whisk in roux. After it’s well incorporated, reduce heat, continue stirring and cook for an additional two minutes. Set pot aside.
Heat 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan (at least 4 quart) over medium high heat. Add shrimp and green onions. Cook for 2 minutes, constantly stirring.
Add cooked crawfish meat.
Gently stir it in.
Add the gravy and three tablespoons of butter to the pan with the seafood and onions. Shake the pan until the butter metlts. Add remaining dry spice mixture, stir and remove from heat.
For each serving, make a ring of rice in a serving bowl, add etouffee in the center. Serve immediately.
You might also enjoy: