Wish Upon A Dish: Crawfish Etouffée/If I couldn't be in NOLA, I can eat like I am

February 9, 2013

Crawfish Etouffée/If I couldn't be in NOLA, I can eat like I am

Well, The Nudge is off on his excursion and I am well stocked with all sorts of foodie projects to keep me well entertained.
Meet my first savory dish that started off my week. Since the Super Bowl is in NOLA this year and I found crawfish in the market, an etouffée slid right to the top of my list.
The first time I tried this dish was in 1993 and our second annual Labor Day party (which was always on a Saturday). Always having a theme or country of origin for the food, everyone enjoyed trying and eating different things as well as the horse shoes and wiffle ball games. Back then there was really was nowhere to eat these international foods I was preparing. One of the best parts of doing these backyard affairs was the new cookbook I got every year.

Our first year was Caribbean food, inspired by our 10 year Anniversary cruise to, where else, the Caribbean. The second year was New Orleans, not because we were recently there, but because I wished I was. Around that time I also started watching a new TV show that was all about food. Yes, I was there for their first ever show and I still watch my favs, Emeril being one of them (but he's all but disappeared).

The cookbook for that year was Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen. I never looked back. When I make Gumbo, it's always his recipe and the etouffée is to DIE FOR. If you can't find crawfish you can use shrimp. My grocery store carries frozen cleaned tails year round and if yours does you can use them. Mine had whole crawfish and those shells and heads make an out of this world stock. I bought one pound because after removing the meat from the tails, I am hoping I will score at least a quarter pound of meat.
Etouffée means smothered and this dish cries out for rice, but I think I will make a small casuella of baked fontina polenta. If you don't want either, a small pasta like orzo or orrechiette would work just as well and if that doesn't do it for you, there is always creamy mashed potatoes. Just don't let that sauce go to waste.

Although Chef Paul made a garbage fish famous, single-handily put New Orleans on the foodie map and gave the city it's "dish" at that time (I think po'boys are THE dish nowadays), he also taught the world about spices and how to efficiently use them to enhance and make a dish.
Emeril showed me how to bake the flour for a healthy roux and that is what I did. I baked 1/2 cup in a baking pan at 325° for 1 hour or so, until it was a caramel color. When you add the water it darkens considerably so do not over bake. Your house will smell like toasted walnuts. If you aren't sure what the color should be, I took a few pics of the different stages till done, so you will know. All I did was take a 1/2 teaspoon of flour every 30 minutes and whisk in 1/2 teaspoon water until I got the color I wanted (will have the color of a penny).

You can see the one on the right is the perfect colored flour you want. Any leftover can be stored on a shelf so make more than you need.
Now we are ready to make an Etouffée.

Crawfish Etouffée
Adapted from Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen

2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. freshly ground white pepper
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried basil
1⁄2 tsp. dried thyme
1 teaspoon vegetables
3⁄4 cup toasted flour
1⁄4 cup finely chopped onion
1⁄4 cup finely chopped celery
1⁄4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
3 cups seafood or chicken broth
2 lbs. peeled crawfish tails or
   peeled medium shrimp
1 cup finely chopped scallions
Cooked white or yellow rice, for serving

1. In a small bowl, combine salt, cayenne, white pepper, black pepper, basil, and thyme; set spice mixture aside. In a 4-qt. heavy-bottomed pot, heat oil over high heat until it just begins to smoke.  Add onions and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until onions soften, about 5 more minutes. Remove pot from heat and stir in 1 tbsp. reserved spice mixture, along with celery and bell peppers.Saute until vegetables are soft.

2. In a 2-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat, bring 2 cups broth to a boil. Gradually add toasted flour and whisk until incorporated. Reduce heat to low and cook for 2 minutes more. Remove pan from heat; set broth mixture aside. 

3. Stir crawfish tails and scallions into vegetable mixture and cook, about 1 minute. Add remaining spice mixture and reserved broth mixture and stir the pan to combine until glossy. Remove pan from heat and serve étouffée with rice.

Review: As always, this recipe did not let me down. Using the toasted flour instead of the traditional roux, saves a ton of calories, fat and time. I served mine on top of a bowl of Fontina Cheese Polenta and garnished with chopped scallions and a shake of Tobasco.
So perfect for Fat Tuesday.

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