Sometimes, a place becomes so closely associated with a specific food that it’s impossible to think of one without the other.
The Big Apple and bagels. Kansas City and barbeque. San Francisco and...Rice a Roni?
For crawfish, the obvious link is Cajun Country in the American South, specifically New Orleans. It’s a city that’s famous for its joie de vivre, it’s French Quarter and countless dishes of Creole and Cajun origin that make generous use of these little swamp bugs.
Of all these dishes, it’s etouffee that I love the most.
Spicy, savory and hearty, etouffee is shellfish stew that makes use of the “smothering” cooking technique popular in both Creole and Cajun cuisines. This particular recipe calls for light roux, like the one’s favored in the Creole tradition, as opposed to the brown roux called for in Cajun-style dishes. It also calls for tomatoes, something you're much more likely to see in Creole cooking rather than Cajun.
I make use of crawfish stock in the recipe, which can be made ahead of time. For more detail about the stock, have a look at my recipe for crawfish bisque, where the stock process is spelled out in detail.
With the stock made ahead of time, the etouffee comes together pretty quickly, meaning there's no excuse not to make this Bayou classic a staple in your kitchen.
Cook time: 45 minutes
Prep time: 20 minutes
5 slices of bacon, finely chopped
75 crawfish tails, cooked and peeled
6 green onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 heirloom tomato, finely chopped
1 green pepper, finely chopped
8 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
¼ cup white flour
2 ½ cup crawfish stock
⅓ cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons Original Louisiana Hot Sauce
1 tablespoon Worchestershire
Salt and pepper to taste
minced parsley to garnish
A main element of the “smothering” technique used in traditional etouffee recipes is the use of only one pot. We’ll be sauteing and seasoning various elements of the dish in a medium sauce pan and then performing a simple deglazing toward the end as we add the crawfish stock.
To get things started, you’ll want to heat your saucepan over a medium-high heat and add your bacon. Let this cook until the fat has rendered, probably about 5 minutes or so. Once rendered toss in your butter, green onions, garlic, celery, onion, tomato and green pepper. Continue to stir this mixture until the butter has melted fully.
Be sure to appreciate the colors as your stir.
With the butter melted, it’s time to season. Add your thyme, paprika, cayenne, bay leaf and dash of salt and pepper. Continue to stir the mixture as it cooks.
It’s time to make the simple, light roux that will give the finished dish some added body. Take your flour and begin to sprinkle it into the mixture as your stir. If you all all the flour at once, there’s a good chance you’ll end up with doughy balls of cooked flour, so take your time here. Let this cook for about five minutes, but not so long that the roux begins to take on a blonde color.
Now we come to the smother.
Add in your crawfish stock and turn the heat up to allow for a boil. Once the boil is reached, crank down the heat to a simmer, add a lid and allow your etouffee to reduce for about 15 minutes. Make sure you’re using a low to medium heat here. You want to lose some volume, but not so much that your etouffee ends up too thick. If you’re planning on service your etouffee over rice, which I highly recommend, now’s the time to get your rice on the stove.
At the end of the 15 minutes, toss in your crawfish and allow them to heat up. Probably about five minutes. Once they’re good and hot, you can add in your parsley, cream, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Be sure to stir. This is one of those “serve immediately” type of meals, so spoon out some rice into a bowl and add a generous helping of the etouffee.
Garnish with parsley, crack open an Abita and prepare your mouth for a trip to the Big Easy!