Andrew Zimmern’s Kitchen Adventures
On the road one day in New Orleans, I spent some time in the Crescent City Farmers Market and got a lesson in étouffée-making from the doyenne of Louisiana home cooking, Poppy Tooker. Étouffée is a riff on the old French verb “to smother,” and while there are as many recipes for étouffée as there are cooks who make it, this one is so easy that it’s become an instant classic in our house. I can’t imagine a better meal than a pot of étouffée, some rice, a salad and a ripe piece of fruit for dessert. Now, “smothered” food in the South means something that’s cooked in gravy and that can and should be served “smothering” a mound of rice. It is invariably rich. And while I am watching my weight, I don’t cut corners when it comes to the fats in this recipe; I just cut down on my portion sizes. My inspiration is Mother’s restaurant in New Orleans, where the étouffée and jambalaya come in four-ounce soup vessels as a side-dish option. Brilliant!
A word about authenticity versus quality. I opt for quality. I like food to taste good. So, do I make my étouffée with roux or without? I make it without, so it’s red. The étouffées of Lafayette (Acadiana Cajun Country) and New Orleans (Creole) and the surrounding areas all use roux—a cooked mixture of flour and fat (usually butter)—which makes the dish brown. Cajun étouffée is usually light brown and more rustic and rich; Creole-style is dark brown, more balanced, and prepared with a classical French approach. Some Cajun cooks eschew the flour and simply cook onions in butter, and I have heard that Paul Prudhomme uses an oil-based roux. I think the fun is in the arguing over which kind of étouffée is best. It’s what I love about Louisiana country cooking. So make this recipe and join the debate.—Andrew ZimmernCajun and Creole RecipesGreat Recipes from New Orleans Chefs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Reserved shells from 2 pounds large shrimp (see below)
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
2 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
3 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 cup tomato paste
3 tablespoons thyme leaves, finely chopped
3 dried bay leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons celery salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
2 pounds large shrimp, shelled and deveined, shells reserved
2 tablespoons Crystal hot sauce, plus more for serving
6 large scallions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Steamed rice and lemon wedges, for serving
How to Make It
Step 1 Make the Shrimp Stock
In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil until shimmering. Add the shrimp shells and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until pink and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the onion, carrot and celery and cook until the vegetables have softened, about 3 minutes. Pour in the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove from the heat and let steep, covered, for 30 minutes longer. Strain the stock into a heatproof bowl through a fine sieve, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Wipe out the pot.
Step 2 Prepare the ÉtouffÉe
In the same pot, melt the butter over moderately high heat until foaming. Add the garlic and onion and cook, stirring, until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste, thyme, bay leaves, celery salt and 2 teaspoons of pepper and cook, stirring constantly, until thick and slightly darkened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the celery and cook for 2 minutes, until slightly softened.
Step 3 Prepare the ÉtouffÉe
Add the shrimp stock in 3 batches, stirring well after each addition. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to moderate and simmer until slightly reduced, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp, the 2 tablespoons of hot sauce and three-fourths of the scallions and cook just until the shrimp are pink throughout, 3 to 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaves. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt. Transfer to a bowl, sprinkle with the remaining scallions and serve with steamed rice, passing lemon wedges and hot sauce at the table.
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