This is one of the best spoonfuls of anything to ever hit my plate. And as good as it is, I haven’t made it in ages.
The last time I had etouffee, though, was in New Orleans which is where the desire to make it came about. The plan for NOLA was to experience as many culinary delights as possible, including etouffee. I planned accordingly making sure that tours included food/restaurant tours, and that we knew where most restaurant hot spots were in advance. Well… that was a waste of time.
It was a beautiful New Orleans day. Our tour guide started things off on exuberant “you’re in for a treat” (damn lie) high note. Oh! I was so excited, and READY. We began the tour. We strolled past historic sites, and of course, haunted ones. There was one restaurant in particular that he mentioned that was so haunted that people looking for work as waitors and kitchen staff only would apply to when desperate. I was thinking, “But how’s the gumbo?”. I may have actually asked.
There came a point when I noticed our over-talkative tour guide would come up missing. Yes – missing. He would make us think he was guiding us through a shop to look at rare items, and he would say something like “Come over here, guys. Take a look at….” By the time everyone made it over, not only did we not know what we should have been looking at, but he was nowhere to be found. Then, he’d come out from behind the curtain (I mean that. The shops we visited had an overwhelming shortage of doors.), wiping his mouth and carrying a takeout bag. Was that his pay for including the spot on his tour? This, mind you, went on for roughly 4 out of 7 restaurants. Dookey Chase took QUITE a while. We had time to sit and order drinks… Still shaking my head.
Anyway, along the tour, we really fell in love with – not one. Not a single one! For the places went for gumbo, it was too thin/watery. There was one place that had pretty decent shrimp creole. And that was that. We tried 5 out of the 7. I cannot remember the names of the places. This was about 9 years ago. However, I do remember the place being extremely tiny, and the 19-inch television over the bar appearing to be more like a 55-inch television because it was so small in there.
Long story short, I had to find a way to make up for this. I’m someone who when I have an unpleasant experience in a restaurant, I have to go home and make it right.
And here we are…
We are currently in the peak of crawfish season. It began in early March. It peaks now, and lasts throughout June. Sometimes it stretches through July. You can always use shrimp instead, but I insist on crawfish. If you do too, make sure that your crawfish are raised and packaged in Louisiana. If not, you may end up with a totally different taste. Trust me on this one. The Louisiana climate and harvesting contributes to the flavor those familiar with authentic etouffee have come to know. So if this is your first crack at it, Louisiana brand is the way to go.
A bit intimidating, Crawfish Étouffée is really just gravy with veggies, and crawfish in it. Very delicious gravy, that is, with veggies and crawfish in it. Before learning the process and steps, I always thought it would take all day to make (for some reason), and required a frighteningly long list of ingredients. Have you ever seen the rolling list of ingredients for gumbo? Due to the flavor of both, I likened it to gumbo, and was completely wrong. However, even if that were the case, it would totally be worth every ingredient and tick of the clock. It took me about an hour and a half to make this from start to finish, and my list of ingredients is neither frightening nor long.
The word etouffee means “smothered”, and that’s just what it does. Smother your french bread, biscuits, rice, or just your bowl. It all works!
Don’t let this dish intimidate you. The most work you’ll do is stirring. There’s plenty of opportunity if you’ve missed an arm day – like most of us. Otherwise, keep a close eye, look out for that peanut butter roux, and don’t overcook the vegetables.
Speaking of roux, although the peanut butter color is the destination, I tend to take it a bit further. See the video for specifics. I would say the best way to describe the color I prefer is more like almond. I brown my butter a bit before adding the flour, and then once the flour is added, you’re already working with some color, and a boost in flavor. So again, a close eye on the roux formation is a definite. Too dark, and you may be overcooking your flour causing it to taste burnt, and then you would have to start over. Burnt is not exactly a flavor you can correct when it comes to this dish, or any other. To play it safe and in sticking with tradition, a peanut butter colored roux will give your etouffee a wonderful consistency and that beautiful toasty base flavor. Taking it a bit further than the pb color will deepen the base flavor, enliven the spices you add later, harmonize with the garlic, and add more flavor across the board.
The secret to the boldness of my etoufee is crawfish boil. Find it in your seasonings aisle. It brings everything together. It adds an undeniable punch without feeling like you’re eating a concentrated dish of briny and salty etouffee. You only need a small amount. A few teaspoons seasons large pots of seafood for seafood boils. So a half teaspoon is all I’m using here.
Lastly, I highly suggest mise en place. Have everything ready to go into the pot. Once things get going, they can move quickly. Considering that most of your time is spent stirring, you may not have much time at all to chop vegetables, strain, and so on during the cooking process.
My great grandmother would be proud. Hope you try it and like it!
This recipe for Crawfish Étouffée is good, great, and fantastic. It truly needs no introduction. Whether on french bread, buttermilk biscuits, or over rice, it's the ultimate comfort food treat!
- 4 oz fat (butter, lard, or shortening)
- 2 cups onions coarsely chopped and split (1 1/4cup + 3/4 cup)
- 1 1/4 cup celery chopped
- 3/4 cup green bell pepper chopped
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 32 oz seafood stock
- 3 tbsp garlic minced
- 15 oz fire roasted tomatoes
- 1/2 tsp crawfish boil
- 2 tbsp creole seasoning
- 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
- 1 tsp cayenne
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 packages crawfish 10-12 oz, each
- 7 green onion chopped
- 1/4 heaping cup fresh parsley chopped
Strain the liquid from the crawfish into a bowl. That liquid is a major flavor component. Set aside.
Strain the tomatoes. Set aside.
Over medium heat, melt the butter. You want to brown the butter a bit.
Once browned, add the flour to the butter. Begin stirring to combine.
Continue to stir to prevent sticking, and clumping of the mixture. You want a smooth mixture. The mixture will begin to turn brown. The magic color here is "peanut butter".
Add the 1 1/4 cups of onions, bell pepper, celery, and garlic.
Stir continuously as the vegetables become fully coated in the roux. You are now cooking the vegetables and allowing them soften a bit, and the flavors to meld, 5 to 10 minutes.
Once your vegetables are tender (not soft), gradually add the tomatoes and stir to combine. Cook for 5 minutes.
Add crawfish liquid. Stir to combine.
Add seafood stock. Stir until mixture is fully combined.
Cook for 30 to 45 minutes on medium low heat. The gravy will begin to thicken. Stir periodically to prevent any sticking at the bottom of the pan.
Add remaining onions.
Bring back to a boil.
Add the crawfish boil. Stir to combine.
Add the seasonings. Stir to combine.
Cook for 5 minutes.
Gradually add the crawfish.
Finish by adding the green onions, and parsley. Stir to combine. Cook further for no more than 5 minutes.
Plate over rice, french bread, biscuits, a wooden spoon. It's up to you. Enjoy!
I use butter for the fat in this recipe, but lard is for the O.G.'s. Either will do.
Seafood stock can be found at most grocers, but Trader Joe's and Whole Foods are pretty definite.
I keep the tomatoes at a minimum in this recipe. If you're a fan of big tomato flavor, add up to another can.
Only 1 bag of crawfish tails is necessary, but we like heaps of crawfish on our plates around here. Do you.
Don't skimp on the onions. Read that again.
Chicken stock can be used in place of the seafood stock.
Crawfish boil is very concentrated. That is why we're only adding a small amount.
Be careful not to overcook the crawfish. They are no different than shrimp and can become rubbery quite quickly. Five minutes will do it once added. They will continue to cook from the heat of the gravy after being removed from the heat.