Tuesday, October 11, 2011
When Bob and I lived with my dad, he used to make us all kinds of Cajun comfort food -- gumbo, shrimp etouffee, fish couvillion (not to mention his everyday recipes that had a Cajun flare -- like spaghetti or hamburgers).
Occasionally it would be just Bob, Dad and I sharing a yummy meal together in our small dining room, but more often my Dad would invite a friend or two to share the meal (for Cajuns more =merrier). I love my Dad's cooking (love my mom's too when she cooks -- My Dad's Aunt Sylvia taught my mom to cook Cajun), and I always think of cooking as a social thing when I think of him. I can remember sitting at a bar stool watching him prepare a meal (it just came to him -- like with most Cajuns -- they don't need recipes). He would talk -- to himself and to me --while he cooked, adding a bit of this and dab of that until the smells coming from the pot made your mouth water in anticipation. As an adult, I have called him many times to ask a question about his roux or ingredients.
Right now I am 33.5 weeks into this last pregnancy of mine, and I feel like I can't get enough food. I am craving comfort foods -- meats and carbs, and I can't seem to get enough. I made a cabbage soup this weekend, and it was delicious, but I could have eaten the whole pot and not felt full (will post that recipe later).
So today I decided I wanted crawfish etouffee and french bread for dinner. I have never made etouffee, so I had to do a little research. I read about the history -- the different types (Creole and Cajun) and read more than a few recipes. Once I felt I had a good feel for the recipe, I called my Dad to run it by him (tomatoes or no tomatoes, butter or oil roux). Then I got to work -- adding my own flair and preferences. I am very pleased with the results (and so full I can't walk). There are many etouffee recipes out there and many philosophies about how it should be made -- follow your own instinct on that, but here is what I did:
I started a roux using grapeseed oil (this is the oil I had on hand. you could use vegetable or canola or whatever you like) and white flour (I think I used 1/2 cup of each and kept adding a little more flour until it was thick enough). If you have not made a roux before, you will need an iron skillet, a wooden spoon (preferably) and some uninterrupted time to stand over it (you can't leave a roux). You start on a medium to medium low heat (just keep an eye on the roux and you will be able to tell the right temp). You want to stir the flour and oil mixture slowly (it helps if you have a partner in the kitchen to stir while you prepare other things). It is also lots of fun to add music and a bottle of wine (to drink not to cook with --my dad always says you need a bottle of wine to make a roux -- by the time you are finished with the bottle, the roux will probably be done -- I of course had no wine with this batch as I am pregnant and my cooking partner was my 4-year-old).
While my helper stirred the roux, I started the veggies in another iron skillet. I used the Cajun trinity (bell pepper, onion and celery) as well as my own trinity (onion, garlic and habanero). I put a little olive oil in the bottom of an iron skillet and let the vegetables cook until softened. Once the veggies were soft, I added my crawfish (about 1 pound) to the pot with the vegetables (along with a little salt) and let all of that simmer while I worked on the roux. You will want to start your white rice somewhere around now as well.
I let my roux brown until it was the color of a light milk chocolate (for gumbo I go all the way to dark, dark chocolate, but I felt the medium brown was good for the etouffee). I added the roux to the crawfish mixture and then used a bit of leftover broth to clean up the roux pan. I added the broth to the crawfish mixture as well -- and probably another cup of water. You want it to be the consistency of a stew -- not too thick or too thin, so keep adding liquid until it looks right to you.
I let the etouffee simmer on low for another 10-15 minutes to let all the flavors blend together. Season to your taste with salt, cayenne, white pepper or a cajun mix like slap ya mama. I only added a tiny, tiny bit of slap ya mama because the habaneros bring enough heat of their own.
Then I poured it over a scoop of white rice and added a piece of this delicious, homemade french loaf.
What you need:
1 pound crawfish tails - they had some in the seafood freezer at HEB -- pricey but worth it. I have also had luck in the past with small Hispanic groceries carrying frozen tails for A LOT cheaper.
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow or white onion
2 stalks of celery
3-4 cloves garlic
2 habanero peppers (these grow really well in Texas and you can also find them at your local Hispanic grocery store).
1 bunch of chopped green onions to add right before serving
salt (to your preference)
cayenne pepper or a cajun mix like slap ya mama (you only need a sprinkling if you use habaneros in your recipe)
1/2 cup white flour (for roux)
1/2 cup oil (for roux)
cooked white rice
and a french loaf (if you like them).
I can't wait for leftovers tomorrow :)
--posted by Stace