Sunday, October 02, 2005

Etouffee it is!

Etouffee is another dish that is new to me. I did quite a bit of reading and asking around as research and found that the word "etouffee" means to smother in French. Usually a rich, spicy gravy, this dish consists of crayfish or shrimp smothered in a thick sauce over rice. I looked all over for crayfish but was told this is the wrong season. So on to shrimp. Shrimp covered in a thick, spicy sauce...I couldn't wait.

First, I needed a good shrimp stock as a base for the sauce. I shelled two pounds of shrimp, added lemon, onion, celery, a bay leaf, peppercorns, salt, and a few sprigs of thyme and water to cover. I strained the stock and found I had more than enough for the sauce.

Into the freezer went 4 cups of golden liquid that will serve me well in future gumbo or jambalaya. I was a bit surprised at the deep color after such a short period of simmering. Guess I'm used to making chicken and beef stock. The whole house smelled like a shrimp boil at this point and my husband kept wandering over to check the stove approvingly.

Next, out came the butter. Lots of butter. A bit of flour whisked in and cooked just until the color turned a bit. Then came piles of onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic. Everything was cooked until the vegetables were just wilted. Then came two cups of the stock, salt and cayenne.

Stirred and simmered everything for a few minutes and ended up filling the house with the most amazing smells. The sauce thickened up nicely and seemed just spiced enough to set of the tender shrimp once they joined the pan. I added the shrimp and kept simmering until they were just cooked through but still tender. Meanwhile, I made up some rice to go underneath and chopped some parsley to top it all off.

Here is my shrimp etouffee in all its glory. How to describe this dish? If I were a food writer I could come up with all kinds of clever ways to capture how this felt in my mouth, how it all tasted. Istead, I'll just say this: it was incredibly, unbelievably delicious.

Thank you, Adam, for putting together Gourmet Survivor II. You raised a lot of money for a very worthy cause, and because of you I have cooked and eaten more wonderful New Orleans food in the past food than I have in my whole lifetime.

Shrimp Etouffee

for the shrimp stock:
1/2 onion, sliced
one stalk celery, sliced
1/2 lemon
bay leaf
1/4 tsp. peppercorns
1/2 tsp. salt
4 srpigs thyme
water to cover

For the sauce:
2 lbs. shrimp with shells
8 ounces butter
1/2 cup flour
4 cups yellow onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
2 Tbs. garlic, minced
2 cups shrimp stock
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. cayenne
1/4 cup parsley, chopped fine

For stock, combine shrimp shells with the remaining stock ingredients in a medium pot. Bring to a boil then turn to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Strain, set 2 cups of stock aside for this dish, and save remaining 4 cups stock for future use.

Melt butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add flour and cook until just turning color. Add onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic and cook until vegetables are just tender. Add shrimp stock, salt, and cayenne and stir to combine well. Turn down heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Add in the shrimp, stir, and simmer until shrimp is just cooked. Serve over rice and sprinkle parsley over the top.