Monday, March 16, 2009

Importing a taste of the south: crawfish étouffée

My husband is from the South and as I think I’ve mentioned in a previous post or two, he goes nuts whenever he gets access to real southern cooking. Last month, we traveled to New Orleans to attend the wedding of a good friend of ours. At the Sunday brunch, our friend’s father-in-law served homemade crawfish étouffée. My husband nearly started doing back flips. We, of course, asked for the recipe, but the cook insisted he doesn’t follow a recipe and improvises each time. I wasn’t sure if he wasn’t willing to give the recipe up, or if he really couldn't describe what he does.

Upon return to the cold North, I started researching crawfish étouffée recipes. Actually, I took the lazy route and asked my mother-in-law for her favorite recipe and she promptly responded with outbound inquiries to various family members. What’s interesting is that no one has a firm recipe – they have ingredients and seasonings they like but they mainly cook by rote, sight and taste, improvising a little each time. There must be something to making this dish by feel!

The most specific “recipe” I received came from my husband’s cousin, who, I'm told, is a very good cook. I was a little worried about following a loose recipe without really knowing what the end result should taste like but ultimately it worked beautifully and apparently the finished dish was “just like it should be.” Of course, I couldn't leave well enough alone so the next day, I turned the leftovers from our big pot of étouffée into small individually sized pot pies – what a fun way to make a second meal out of them.

Crawfish étouffée (adapted from Richman)

2 pounds crawfish, peeled (fresh or frozen) and / or shrimp or lobster meat (I made mine with a pound of crawfish and a pound of lobster plus shrimp)
6 cups good fish stock (Richman likes shrimp juice or clam juice and chicken stock if needed. I used a high quality fish stock with great results)
1 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup butter
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
4-5 stalks celery, chopped
½ large bell pepper, chopped
1-2+ Tbs soy sauce
1-2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
Red pepper flakes (1/2 tsp – 1 tsp as desired)
Tabasco to taste
Bay leaf
Salt and Pepper
Parsley for garnish

Heat a heavy-bottomed pan such as a Dutch oven over medium heat and add oil and flour. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture has reached a dark caramel color and develops a nutty flavor. Will take approximately 20 minutes. Take care not to burn the flour – if you do, you must start again.

Add vegetables (should measure approximately 3 cups in total). Add a bay leaf, a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook until vegetables are tender.

Add 3 cups liquid and reserve the rest. Add Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, soy sauce. Stew should have some heat. Simmer until mixture thickens (one to two hours, stirring occasionally and adding additional stock as necessary).

Add fish, making sure to include all of the liquid from the crawfish if using. Simmer until fish is cooked through. Taste and adjust seasonings

Serve over rice with parsley sprinkled on top

For pot pie leftovers

Spoon leftover étouffée into ramekins. Brush top with butter. Cut defrosted store-bought puff pastry sheets to fit over ramekins. Gently press pastry onto tops of ramekins. Brush with melted butter. Cook in a 350 degree oven for ~20 minutes or as directed by instructions on pastry package.

8 comments:

Laura [What I Like] said...

Yum...looks pretty similar to the one that Emeril made on Martha the other day. I guess you can't get away from that Louisiana holy trinity!

catchall fan in brooklyn said...

these are charming. don't go in for the crawfish but can think of many leftover type occasions for your little pies. thanks for the inspiration.

Giff said...

mmm this sounds delicious, and I love the photos :)

Temperance said...

Ok, I am not a crustacean eater but I seriously admire how you can make a stack of dirty dishes look good.

Junglefrog said...

Great looking little dishes Sabra! Love them!! (Did you manage to make the pannacotta?)

skrockodile (sabra) said...

Laura: I think it's always a combination of the same basic things
Fan: me too - I am a big fan of pot pies right now
Thanks Gif/Temperance and Junglefrog re: the photos
Junglefrog: I did, but I wasn't happy with my photos. I love some of the molds you used and had to go searching for some better ones than what I had - I've found them now so stay tuned!

Cris said...

Mmm. this looks delicious! Im so making it!

Anonymous said...

My daughter and I found your recipe yesterday while looking for a seafood pot pie recipe. I am from Louisiana originally, so a bit of an étouffée snob and was skeptical. I have to say great job! We used your recipe and followed it pretty closely. The only changes we made were the following:
We used a sweet Vidalia onion, added a jalapeno with the sweet pepper, skipped the soy sauce, for spices we used Tony Chachere;s original spice, and we made fresh stock with the shells from the lobster and shrimp. Also we cooked it for about two to three hours before adding the seafood.
And of course we made fresh pie crust with butter!
We really loved it, thanks for sharing! We will make it again.

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