Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Real Shrimp Etoufee

Since today is Mardi Gras I thought I might share my recipe for Shrimp Etoufee. This isn't a quick and dirty recipe and is the traditional method for making a proper etoufee. The 'mother' mixture lays the foundation for almost anything from shrimp, chicken, crawfish, whatever is at hand, even cut up pieces of fish. Like many Creole recipes this one starts with a roux and adds the trinity of onions, green bell peppers, and celery to make the foundation sauce. It's from here that you veer off and make it shrimp or whatever. To make this recipe really authentic you need to make your own shrimp stock. You can fake it with clam juice but it just isn't the same. Making your own shrimp stock also lets you use the shrimp heads and shells to extract all the flavor that they have and you are not wasting anything. Remember that the people who created most of this type of cooking were, in most cases, subsistence cooks and couldn't afford to waste anything that might bring nutrition or flavor to the party.

Making the shrimp stock is a snap.

In a large soup pot(6 quart) put all the heads and tails from about 3 pounds of shrimp(21-25 count are best) it should be about a pound or quart of shells and heads and add:

4 quarts water
1 small yellow onion-coarsely chopped
2 stalks coarsely chopped celery
2 coarsely chopped carrots
3 smashed garlic cloves
1 bay leaf
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp kosher salt

Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmmer this on low for about an hour, skimming occasionally any foam that forms on the top. Strain through a colander and cool. This will make more than you need for the etoufee but it freezes well and will keep frozen for a couple of months no problem. You'll need a quart of shrimp stock for the etoufee. If you just can't take the time to make the shrimp stock yourself you can substitute a mixture of half clam juice and half water but it leaves a little to be desired.
The recipe calls for creole seasoning which you can buy but it is also very simple to make. This recipe makes a lot but it is good for seasoning other things besides etoufee and is great on chicken or beef and makes a good grill seasoning as well. If it is too spicy for you then halve the amount of cayenne. This is pretty much exactly the same blend that Emmeril LaGasse calls his 'Essence' and Paul Prudhomme calls his 'Cajun Magic'.

Creole Seasoning

Mix together well:
2 1/2 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp kosher salt
2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried thyme

For the Shrimp Etouffee you'll need a large dutch oven (preferably cast iron but enamel is ok) and:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter(you can use vegetable oil, lard(truly authentic) or bacon crippings if you prefer)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups chopped onions
2 cups chopped green bell peppers
2 cups chopped celery
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes or tomato sauce
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons Creole seasoning ( see recipe above)
1 quart shrimp stock
3 pounds medium shrimp (21 to 25 count per pound), peeled and deveined
1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves

Steamed white rice, for serving
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion tops, for garnish. Make sure there is a bottle of Tabasco sauce handy for those you like it really spicy.

Making the roux

Melt the butter or oil in the Dutch oven set over medium heat. Add the flour and stir continuously over medium heat until its the color of peanut butter which could take as much as ten minutes. Pay attention here and don't let the roux get too dark or burn. It goes from peanut butter color to burned in a heartbeat. If it burns or smells burnt then start over.

Add the trinity:

Add the onions, bell peppers, celery, and garlic to the roux, and cook, stirring often, for 10 more minutes or until the vegetable are soft and beginning to brown slightly. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, salt, cayenne, and 1 tablespoon of Creole seasoning. Bring it back to the simmer, about 2 to 3 minutes, and then add in the shrimp stock. It helps if you use a wire whisk here. Bring the mixture to a boil, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes.

Add the shrimp

Season the peeled and deveined shrimp with the other tablespoon of Creole seasoning and stir them in. Cook the shrimp for 5  minutes more, they should be just barely cooked through. Add the chopped parsley and give it one more stir. Remove it from the heat and serve immediately over steamed white rice and garnished with sliced green onion tops. Make sure you have a bottle of Tabasco sauce handy for those you like it really spicy. This dish is spicy as it should be but it might be too much so for small children. You'll just have to back off on the cayenne if you are going to be serving children. I have also found out that this is a little too spicy for most Brits so know your diners.

This recipe makes about 10 - 12 servings.

As I said in the beginning. This can be Chicken Etoufee, Crawfish Etoufee or anything else. If making a Chicken Etoufee then you use chicken stock instead of the shrimp stock and use shredded roasted chicken. If you are doing a crawfish version then you make a crawfish stock like you did the shrimp stock. There are no rules really other than getting a proper foundation built with a roux and the trinity. You can make this completely vegetarian by using whatever veges you want instead of a meat. Corn, cooked beans, okra, carrots, dandelion greens, spinach, kale, whatever and even using water instead of a stock is completely legit. In the swamps of Louisiana you will even find it made with nutria(a rodent found in the swamps), alligator, oppossum, raccoon, and Goddess knows what else. As long as you have the roux and trinity you are gold.

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