One of the first things I learned about Joe is his love for cajun/creole food. I didn’t grow up with it and neither did he but his family traveled quite a lot and he had opportunities to experience many different cultures and local flavors. He always remembered the spicy flavors of New Orleans as one of his favorite trips. Joe and I went to New Orleans a few years back and we sampled many of the delectable dishes that the locals enjoy. The etouffee was so memorable and one of the best things I ever ate. To make it easier on myself and anyone else who is intimidated with cajun or creole cooking I broke the recipe down into 3 parts. First I started by making the broth earlier in the day. Once the roux and stew/gravy comes together it should simmer for 20 minutes giving sufficient time to make the rice. And lastly the shrimp was cooked separately which only took a few minutes from start to finish and was ready at just the right time to top the bowl off. I found that the shrimp was cooked perfectly and did not overcook as it might have if simmered in the gravy for a longer period of time. I thought it was visually appealing with the layered rice and etouffee gravy topped by the shrimp. As with most dishes that have a spice blend the flavors develop over time. The first bowl needed a little kick so I added a sprinkle of cayenne pepper, however when we had leftovers the next day, all the flavors had time to meld together and it tasted even better.
Earlier in the day I seasoned some broth with lemon. It is an easy step to make the prep work faster. You’ll need 2 cups of broth with sliced lemon. I like “Better Than Bouillon” chicken base added to water to make the broth.
Some cooks will also boil shrimp shells along with the lemon to give it a seafood tasting broth. I only had the shrimp tails and decided to leave them out. Bring the broth to a boil and add the lemon slices. Turn down the heat to simmer and let cook for 20 minutes. Discard the lemon slices and pour the remaining broth into a jar or measuring cup to use later.
Chef Paul Prudhomme, my favorite chef calls this next step the stew or gravy that you pour over the rice. I like the term gravy. It starts with making a roux with butter and flour. Then you’ll add the trinity which traditionally is onion, celery and green bell pepper. I am not a fan of celery or green bells so I opted for diced poblano and diced red bell pepper. You will also need garlic, seasoned broth, creole spices and canned tomatoes along with some fresh thyme, parsley and chives. Salt to taste.
Continue to whisk and don’t look away or you might burn the roux which is what happened to me. It starts out light and will begin to darken over the next few minutes. If it looks like it’s cooking too fast adjust the heat lower.
When the roux has that rich copper color add the diced onion and let them sweat it out for a couple of minutes. If using celery and green bells add them as well. My poblano and red bell have been previously roasted and I don’t want to cook them down any further.
Once it’s come to a boil turn down the heat to simmer for 20 minutes. If you want to add a few shakes of Tabasco sauce into the mix, do this now. With 20 minutes to spare you should make your rice according to package instructions.
When you have about 10 minutes left to simmer the gravy, get another skillet ready to make the shrimp. Melt a tablespoon of butter over medium heat and swirl around the pan so that the entire bottom of the pan is coated with the melted butter.
Sprinkle creole seasoning over one side of the shrimp and lay seasoned side down. Then sprinkle the top side with the seasoning. Once it begins to turn pink it’s time to turn it over. Usually just about the time I get the last shrimp on the pan it’s time to start turning them over. They cook in just a minute or two before turning them.
1 pound Shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/2 Lemon, sliced
2 cups Chicken Broth, I used Better than Bouillon dissolved in water
4 tablespoons Butter
4 tablespoons Flour
1 cup Onion, diced
*1/2 cup Poblano Pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and diced
*1/2 cup, Red Bell Pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and diced
2 cloves Garlic, grated on a microplane hand grater
1 teaspoon Thyme, chopped
1 (14.5 ounce) Can Diced Tomatoes
1 tablespoon Creole Seasoning, divided (I used Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning)
2 – 3 shakes Cayenne Pepper Sauce
Pinch of Cayenne Pepper, optional for more spice
Salt to taste
Garnish with fresh Chives and Parsley
*Traditionally diced Celery and diced Green Bell Pepper are cooked along with the onion called the Trinity when making the etouffee. If using them substitute 1/2 cup each in place of the Poblano and Red Bell.
To make Broth: Combine water and Better than Bouillon chicken base together. Whisk together until the chicken base has dissolved. In a medium saucepan add the broth, lemon slices and any discarded shrimp shells if desired. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain the lemon and shrimp shells. Let the broth cool and refrigerate if not using immediately.
To make Etouffee: Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Heat butter until it begins to brown then add the flour and stir to combine. Continue cooking the roux as it begins to turn brown. Make sure to stir often and watch the roux for about 7 – 10 minutes. Watch closely as the roux can burn easily. When the roux resembles a copper color add the onion. If using celery and green bell pepper add those as well. They will begin to soften over the next few minutes. Continue stirring and add the garlic and fresh thyme and let cook for one minute more. Whisk in the broth and add 1/2 tablespoon creole seasoning and tomatoes to the mix. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer for 20 minutes. At this point you should prepare your rice according to package directions.
To make Shrimp: Lay the shrimp out flat on a plate and sprinkle with some of the remaining creole seasoning. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat and swirl it in the pan so that the entire pan is coated. Lay the shrimp seasoned side down in a single layer. Let cook until the shrimp begin to turn pink on the bottom, approximately 2 – 3 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining seasoning over the shrimp and begin to turn them over to cook the other side another 2 minutes or until the shrimp is cooked through and pink on both sides.
To assemble, place cooked rice in the center of your bowl. Pour the etouffee gravy over the rice and lay the shrimp on top. Garnish with chopped chives and parsley.
Makes 4 – 6 servings.