To Etouffée Is To Smother
The season of lent begins the day after Mardi Gras which is called Ash Wednesday. It continues for about 7 weeks leading up to the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection from the grave on Easter Sunday. A day worth celebrating!
Since Cajuns are predominately Catholic, lent was and still is faithfully observed where I grew up in Vermilion Parish. That place on earth spotted with marshland on its southern side just before reaching the Gulf of Mexico.
Traditionally during lent, meat is served only once out of the three daily meals except for Wednesday and Friday. On these days it is abstained from as an act of sacrifice in order to draw closer to God.
As a teenager, my mother remembers there were no dances or parties during this season. As a child, I remember stressing out on trying to decide whether I was going to give up candy, gum or cokes for forty something days. No matter what we chose personally to abstain from we were always served meatless dishes on Friday.
Thankfully fresh fish is readily available around the marshland. In place of meat and rice (see Everyday Rice Every Day) and gravy Mama would fix fish or shell fish. One of my favorites is her crawfish etouffee (pronounced ay-2-fay).
Crawfish Etouffée, A Smothered Stew
Etouffée means to smother and smother those crawfish Mama did well. Her recipe calls for a buttery white sauce made with onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic with a kick of cayenne pepper. It’s super easy to make and oh-so tasty!
The first time I prepared it for some Arkansas friends they said that it was not the same as what they had eaten in restaurants. Not the same, but better! That was a high compliment to my Mama and her recipe.Print
Crawfish or Shrimp Étouffée
This recipe of smothered crawfish or shrimp in a buttery white sauce is flavored with the Cajun trinity and a kick of cayenne. The étouffée is served over rice and enjoyed as one of the favored classic Southern Louisiana dishes.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 55 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
- Yield: 8 servings
- Category: Seafood
2 sticks (1 cup) real butter
2 cups chopped onion
1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon chopped celery
1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon chopped bell pepper
2 large cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 cup cornstarch
2 pounds fresh or frozen crawfish or shrimp (peeled and cleaned)
1 teaspoon salt
3/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or more
parsley, chopped; optional
Melt butter in a heavy saucepan.
Add vegetables and cook on medium heat until onions are clear, about 10-15 minutes. Do not brown.
Add cornstarch, cook for 5 minutes stirring often.
Before you add the crawfish or shrimp, pass your hand through them removing any pieces of shell or black veins. Stir the shellfish into the cornstarch and vegetable mixture.
Add salt and pepper stirring well then add a little water, about 1/4 cup at a time, until it is the consistency of a thick gravy.
Adjust heat to let simmer covered on medium to medium-low heat for 20-30 minutes stirring occasionally. Add a small amount of water if gravy needs thinning.
Sprinkled with chopped parsley and stir.
Serve over cooked rice.
The amount of water added may vary each time you make this recipe depending on the crawfish or shrimp. Some crawfish and shrimp have more water in them than others.
I hope you find crawfish étouffée easy enough to prepare for yourself. You can usually find the shellfish in your grocers’ freezer section. I recommend purchasing fish that is harvested as close to your home as possible if you can’t get them in your own back yard like we used to, but that’s another story for another time.
“I have never met a soul who has set out to satisfy the Lord and has not been satisfied himself.”Watchman Nee