Shrimp or Crawfish Étouffée
I first learned to make Crawfish Étouffée for Katie. I had a ball doing the research trying to help her make the best Étouffée, Red Beans and Rice as well as Fried Bell Peppers with Remoulade sauce. I'll eventually post these recipes to the blog since they were all enormous hits.
Recipes all have stories to them. Recipes are either invented by accident from ingredients on hand, found in a book or magazine, passed on through a family or passed on from friend to friend. Recipes evolve and change as each person puts their own mark on it. This recipe certainly has my mark on it but is also has the key element of friend to friend passing on delicious techniques and secrets. I have a lot of Southern friends and immediately got on the phone to get advice and input. One phone call was made to Carol Sawyer who told me the absolute best Étouffée she'd ever had was Laura Ward's. So I called Laura.
And here is what I love about a recipe: it is a way to make friends. Not just any friend, but friends who love to cook and eat and share food. I had so much fun talking to Laura. Laura is famous for everything she makes. She comes from a family of great cooks and I loved hearing all of her family stories. Two secret ingredients to her Étouffée are Rotel Tomatoes and then adding an entire lemon at the very end. Laura's family is Lebanese and the lemon is probably more Lebanese than Southern but I'll tell you it makes all the difference! It is the secret ingredient that makes the recipe go from good to fabulous! (Lemon, by the way, does this for many dishes. It is an ingredient that makes food almost "sparkle" if that is a word you can use in describing food. It truly "brightens" the flavor of almost any dish from iced tea to fish to chili)
Back to the Étouffée. Crawfish are super easy to get in Lousiana but a lot more challenging to get in other states. I had some flown in overnight from the Louisiana Crawfish Company. You can also just use shrimp, which is what I do most of the time. Both are equally delicious.
I want to tell you a quick tip on making shrimp broth. Eventually I will take some photos and add them to this post. But for now I will tell you that shrimp broth is the easiest of all the broths you can make and super quick too. In fact, unlike veal stock that is a three day process, shrimp stock only takes 15-30 minutes. In fact, you don't really want to cook it longer than 30 minutes or the shrimp shells change and start to give off a more ammonia flavor instead of yummy shrimp flavor. So shorter is better with shrimp. And since you have the shrimp shells leftover from peeling the shrimp for the Étouffée then you might as well make the stock. But if you don't want to you can just use chicken broth or clam juice. It is a very mild broth and can be a base for all sorts of soups.
2 tablespoon olive oil
Use whatever amount you have whether it is from one pound of shrimp or five pounds of shrimp. Quickly saute shrimp shells in olive oil until they turn pink. Stir with a wooden spoon as they cook. Add water to cover shrimp shells. I basically add as much water as I need for a recipe or a little more. I cook it for about 20 minutes, then strain out the shells and ta-da: Shrimp stock. Super super easy. If making the Étouffée that day just leave it warm on the stove. If you are making shrimp for another dish you can freeze the broth for a later use. It may seem tasteless but you will add salt to your final dish so don't add any to the broth now.
SHRIMP OR CRAWFISH ÉTOUFÉE
This is a key technique of mine. I make the roux in the pan after I saute the shrimp. And add the roux nearer to the end of cooking. Most people make the roux before they cook the onions bell, pepper and celery. So please note this key technique. I like to get the flavor from the pan where I've cooked the shrimp. And I make quick and easy roux. So many people get intimated by the roux. Don't. Just have you whisk ready, cook the flour in pan with a little extra oil or butter and then have some broth ready to whisk in as it thickens. Eventually I will take pictures of this step too.
You also may think I'm crazy for using olive oil and butter in the same dish but they both impart different flavors. Julia Child's editor, Judith Jones, actually got in a debate with Marcella Hazan over using both butter and olive oil in the same dish. Jones thought it was unnecessary. Hazan insisted it was essential. I feel the same way.
Étouffée is most often served with rice and garnished with green onions and Crystal Hot Sauce. I don't care for the green onions on mine and prefer parsley, but you can use one or both. Whatever is your personal favorite. Remember to start making your rice before you make your etoufee so that the rice will be finished and ready to go. I hate when the shrimp or any shellfish gets overcooked and tough. So I always wait to add the shrimp until the end and then serve it immediately after the shrimp is in the pot.
1/2 stick butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 yellow onions, diced (about two cups diced onion)
6 garlic cloves, minced
4 celery ribs, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
Cajun Seasoning to your taste, use at least one teaspoon
(use your favorite. Some swear by Tony Chacheres, other love Luzianne.)
1 can (10-ounces) Rotel tomatoes (these add a lot of heat so don't add extra cayenne or other pepper until after you taste this with the Rotel tomatoes
4 cups shrimp broth or chicken broth or clam juice
2 Bay leaves
2 pounds of shrimp, peeled (shells reserved to make broth) or 2 pounds of crawfish tails
kosher salt to sprinkle on shirmp
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup all-purpose flour for roux (use 1/2 cup if you like a thicker sauce)
(you may want to add additional olive oil or butter)
1/2 cup broth to add to roux so it will incorporate more easily into the sauce
1 entire bunch of parsley leaves, chopped
1 whole lemon, cut in half
(squeeze into sauce and put entire lemon in the pot)
Heat a 7-quart stock pot or larger pot to medium-high and saute the onions in the olive oil and butter mixture. After a few minutes add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring garlic so it doesn't burn. Add the celery and bell peppers. Cook until the vegetables are soft (about five minutes.) Sprinkle the vegetable mixture with cajun seasoning.
Add 1 can of rotel tomatoes, four cups of shrimp stock (or chicken broth or clam juice) and the two Bay leaves.
If you want to skip this next step of sauteeing the peeled shrimp and just toss the shrimp in the pot you can. They will cook in about three minutes But this is MY TECHNIQUE and I think adds more flavor to the dish of you saute the shrimp and then make the roux in the pan you sauted the shrimp in. So get out your largest frying pan or cast iron pan and heat it to medium high. Sprinkle shrimp or crawfish tails with a little kosher salt. In batches, saute the shrimp olive oil or canola oil. I quickly cook the shrimp on each side and transfer them to a plate before I add them to the big pot. (I don't like the shrimp to overcook) After you've cooked all of the shrimp keep it set aside on a plate, but use the pan with all the shrimp bits in it and reduce to medium heat. Add a little more olive oil or butter. Whisk in the flour and cook the flour for 3-5 minutes. (this will not be a dark roux) Add some broth the the roux and cook for another minute. Then add the roux to the big pot. If you would like a thicker Étouffée then either repeat this step or use more flour. I like my sauce a little thinner. Do keep in mind the sauce will thicken a bit as it cooks.
Now cut a lemon in half and squeeze the lemon into the bit pot and then dump the whole lemon in there. The rind adds great flavor. Add the entire bunch of chopped parley. Then add your shrimp. Serve immediately over rice and garnish with Crystal Hot Sauce to your taste.