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~ Shrimp Étouffée: A Hallmark of Louisiana Cuisine ~

6a0120a8551282970b01901bcf4047970bOf all the wonderful places in the world we've traveled to, and, spent enough time in to get to know the people and their food, New Orleans is my all-time favorite.  Joe's and my feet first hit Bourbon Street in 1983.  I had just turned 30 and was well on my way to fine-tuning my life as a foodie.  I'd done my homework and had a list of all sorts of fine-dining restaurants, sandwich shops and cafes I wanted to eat in, as well as a list of hallmark foods I wanted to try.

How I ate my way through NOLA & where I first ate étouffée!

6a0120a8551282970b016762c4cb9c970b-800wiOn that trip we stayed at the Fairmont Hotel, which has since been renovated and reopened as the Roosevelt Hotel.  This classy, historic place is famous for its Sazarac Bar & Sazarac Cocktail (a rye-, bitters- and Absinthe-based drink).  Our first stop was Galatoires, and, before we even got there, I knew I'd be trying their signature shrimp remoulade.  Throughout the week:  At Brennan's, for breakfast, we ate many beignets and eggs all sorts of ways (a la Clark, a la Nouvelle, Portuguese and Sardou too). Of course we drank our hurricane's at Pat O'Brien's, but, they serve aweome food too, and, if you're ever there, be sure to try their gumbo, jambalaya, or red beans and rice.  Thanks to street vendors on every corner, I got addicted to the real-deal 'po boy sandwich (I know I ate at least 5 or 6 on that trip).  At Arnaud's I inhaled a Beef Wellington... not an entire filet from a larger cut, but a life-changing, individually wrapped one served with peppercorn sauce.  At Antoine's I don't remember what I ate because my mind remains fixated on the Crepes Suzette flamed in orange liqueur.  Lastly, there was Commander's Palace.  I had saved this culinary experience for our grand finale and was so excited to eat a meal prepared by the revered Executive Chef Paul Prudhomme.  Imagine my letdown when I learned he had recently turned his kitchen reins over to an up-and-coming new chef on the NOLA scene:  it was Executive Chef Emeril Lagasse's crawfish étouffée I ate that night -- need I say any more?

6a0120a8551282970b016301cf18e1970d-800wiIf you want to taste some of the NOLA fare I have fallen in love with:

My recipe for ~ Mardi Gras Shrimp Remoulade a la Galatoire's(mentioned above and pictured here), can be found in Categories 1, 2, 10, 11, 14 or 17.  

My recipe for ~ Louisiana's Famous Shrimp Po' Boy Sandwiches ~ (mentioned above and pictured above), can be found in Categories 2, 11 or 14.

IMG_2070 IMG_2081~ My Love Affair with: Individual Beef Wellingtons ~ continues to this day.  You can find this spectacular (if I do say so myself) recipe in Categories  3 or 21.

In case you haven't figured it out yet,  if you're a foodie, two weeks in New Orleans will change your life.

IMG_5803A bit about étouffée (ay-TOO-fay): One of New Orlean's hallmark dishes, it is basically a thick, spicy, maindish shellfish stew served over cooked white rice*.  It is neither brothy or soupy.  Originally a dish found in the Bayou and backwaters of Louisiana, it was introduced to New Orleans restaurants about 80 years ago, and, nowadays, many restaurants will tell you it is the most popular dish on their menu.

In French, the word "étouffée" means "smothered" or "suffocated". Étouffée recipes are found in both Cajun and Creole cuisines and are seasoned as such, with either Cajun or Creole seasoning.  The smothery sauce is made with a flour-and-butter-based golden brown roux**, the "Holy Trinity" (onion, celery and green pepper), seafood stock***, and, one type of shellfish (crawfish, shrimp or crab), not a combination of shellfish.  Fresh or canned tomatoes are optional. In New Orleans, crawfish étouffée is classic.  Here in the 'burbs, shrimp will do nicely.

IMG_5689* No people take their rice more seriously than the people of New Orleans, and I was surprised to learn they have their own method for cooking it.  Their Creole technique differs from the conventional method in that the ratio of water to rice is 4:1 instead of 2:1, it gets boiled and drained (similar to cooking pasta), and, it gets finished off in a low 325 degree oven.  You can find my version of ~ Commander's Kitchen's Recipe for: "Boiled" Rice ~ in Category 4.

PICT0002**  At some point in time, cooks of all levels of expertise encounter a hot food, usually a liquid, that needs to be thickened.  Whether it's a soup, a stew, a sauce or a gravy, knowing or not knowing how to do this can and will make or break an otherwise great recipe.  To learn all about this techniquie, read:  ~ How to: Make a Roux & Slurry (to Thicken Foods) ~ in Category 15.

IMG_5456*** You've heard me say it many times, "you only get out of something what you put into it" and homemade stock is the blueprint to the success or failure of many a recipe. Making shrimp stock couldn't be easier.  

All you need to do is:  ~ Save Those Shrimp Shells!!!  Because I Said So!!! (How to:  Make a Basic Shrimp Stock a la Melanie) ~. Find the the recipe in Categories 14, 15 or 22.

It's time to make some excellent étouffée:


2 1/2-3  pounds medium shrimp (51-60 count), peeled, deveined and tails off  

2  tablespoons Creole seasoning, 2 total tablespoons throughout recipe,  1 tablespoon for seasoning the shrimp and 1 tablespoon for seasoning the roux

1  cup diced yellow or sweet onion

3/4  cup diced celery

1/2  cup finely-diced green bell pepper

2 large garlic cloves, run through a garlic press

7  tablespoons unsalted butter 

5  tablespoons all-purpose flour

3  cups shrimp stock, prepared as directed above (canned seafood stock may be substituted), heated to steaming, 3 cups total throughout recipe 

1  14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained

2  fresh bay leaves, or 3-4 dried bay leaves

1  tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1  teaspoon Louisiana Gold hot sauce, more or less, to taste

2x  recipe for Commander's Kitchen's "Boiled" Rice, prepared as directed, or, 6 cups of cooked or steamed white rice (3 cups before cooking), your favorite recipe

minced fresh parsley and/or parsley sprigs, for garnish

IMG_5701~ Step 1.  Prepare the shrimp stock as directed and set aside.  Prep the shrimp as directed (remember to save and freeze those shells for next time).  Toss the shrimp with 1 tablespoon of the Creole seasoning and set aside.  Prep the onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic as pictured above and set aside. Prepare the rice as directed or your favorite way, and set aside.

Things are ready to rock and roll:

PICT0003 PICT0008 PICT0016~ Step 2.  In 12" skillet, melt butter over low heat, increase to medium, add flour and whisk until the color of peanut butter...

IMG_5715 IMG_5710~ Step 3.  ... this will take 3-4 minutes depending upon the heat of your stove.  Add the onions, celery, bell pepper, garlic and remaining 1 tablespoon of Creole seasoning to the roux.  Using a large spoon, stir to form a paste.

IMG_5728~ Step 4.  Adjust the heat to medium and add some hot shrimp stock, 1/2 cup at a time until 2 cups of total stock has been added, allowing the mixture to thicken each time you add the stock.  This will only take 20-30 seconds after each addition. Add the tomatoes and continue to cook for about 30-60 more seconds. The mixture should look like gravy, not too thick and not too thin. Stir in the bay leaves, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce.

IMG_5745 IMG_5738                                          ~ Step 5. Add the last 1 cup of shrimp stock.

Adjust heat to a gentle, but steady simmer and continue to simmer until the mixture is once again thickened to the consistency of gravy and reduced by about one-third, about 25-35 minutes.

IMG_5765Optional Note.  At this point I turn the heat off, place a lid on the skillet and allow the mixture to steep for 1-2 hours.  Besides the obvious benefit of better flavor, this also gives you the opportunity to prepare étoufée in advance of serving, which is particularly convenient if you're serving it to guests!  T.G.I.F. 

IMG_5772~ Step 6.  Add the seasoned shrimp to the gently simmering sauce. Continue to cook until pink and just cooked through.  In the case of medium-shrimp, this will take about 4-5 minutes.

Note:  Some folks like larger shrimp, but, in our family, we prefer them slightly smaller (not too small), just bite-sized, succulent shrimp in each and every last bite of our etouffée.

IMG_5789 IMG_5798 IMG_5803~ Step 7. Make a bed of rice on each plate. Smother rice with étouffée. Top  with a bit more rice and some minced parsley.

IMG_5860Shrimp Étouffée:  A Hallmark of Louisiana Cuisine:  Recipe yields 6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 12" skillet w/lid, preferably nonstick; whisk; large spoon

6a0120a8551282970b017c33da8ae6970b-800wiCook's Note:  Every dessert in Louisiana is outstanding, and it's hard to single out just one, but, if it's a classic New Orleans recipe you're looking for,  you might want to try ~ A Holiday Tradition:  My Bourbon Street Pecan Pie ~.  You can find the recipe in Categories 6, 11 or 18.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)


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