Happy Lundi Gras!
This weekend brought a little bit of Louisiana to the Texas Farmers' Markets and we all passed a big time, cher! Mardi Gras was in full swing with sweet zydeco music, a second line parade, green, purple, and gold everything, and the occasional 'throw me sumthin', mister!' and ' laissez les bon temps rouler' ringing out from the crowd. Under the chef demo tent, I stirred up a little excitement with the help of market vendors K & S Seafood, Stellar Gourmet Foods, and Johnson's Backyard Garden in the form of a simple but satisfying Shrimp Étouffée.
So what is Étouffée? Why is it not Gumbo? What is the difference? Great questions.
Étouffée, meaning smothered and most frequently made with shrimp or crawfish, but occasionally with chicken, is a butter or lard roux-based dish that includes the holy trinity-- onion, bell pepper, and celery, and sometimes tomatoes (Cajun dishes do not generally include tomatoes. Creole dishes do.) in a savory gravy. It differs from Gumbo primarily in that it features one protein instead of a combination, and never includes okra or file, like many gumbos do. It is a touch thicker than gumbo, and a bit richer, too. It is considered a more refined dish than gumbo, but that's probably more personal opinion and preference than culinary science.
Below, find my basic Étouffée recipe. It is traditional and straightforward-- nothing fancy, but as with every Cajun/Creole dish it seems, there are many who would add ingredients, subtract ingredients, take shortcuts, skip steps, increase fat, decrease fat, or simply throw caution and
Simple Shrimp Étouffée
¼ c butter
¼ c all purpose flour
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 small bell pepper, chopped
2 large stocks celery, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 small can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
2 cups shrimp stock
1 tablespoon creole seasoning
2 pounds medium shrimp, shelled
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Salt and Black Pepper, to taste
Rice, for serving
In a large heavy skillet or Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat. Increase heat to medium high and whisk in flour until incorporated fully with butter. Continue whisking constantly until roux is the color of peanut butter, about 10 minutes.
Add onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic, mixing into roux. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until vegetables are wilted and onion is transparent, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and stir to combine well.
Slowly whisk or stir in the stock gradually over medium high heat until sauce is smooth, bubbling, and thickening. Stir in seasoning. Bring to a low boil, stirring, then reduce heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.
Fold shrimp, parsley, and green onion into gravy, cooking shrimp through until opaque-- about 3 minutes. Correct seasonings, adding more creole seasoning, salt, and/or black pepper as needed. Serve over cooked rice, with hot pepper sauce on the side.
- At the Texas Farmers Market, I used shrimp from market vendor K & S Seafood, Creole Seasoning Blend from Stellar Gourmet Foods, and organic parsley and organic spring onions from Johnson’s Backyard Garden.
- In lieu of shrimp stock, substitute seafood stock, chicken stock, clam juice, water or any combination thereof. If you aren’t squeamish about handling shrimp shells and heads, purchase shrimp with shells and heads on, then remove them yourself and make a stock by covering with water, adding a few peppercorns and just a pinch or 2 of salt along with half of a whole onion and some celery scraps and simmer over medium low heat for 30 minutes to an hour, adding water as needed to keep ingredients covered.
- I love Stellar Gourmet Food’s Creole Seasoning Blend because salt is not its main ingredient. I like to control the amount of salt added, without under or over seasoning the gravy. I have also used a homemade seasoning blend. If neither is an option, try to obtain a low-salt version of your favorite creole seasoning.
Disclosure: This recipe was prepared for the Texas Farmers' Markets, where I contract as Market Chef. Ingredients from market vendors were provided free of charge for promotion and demonstration.