Monday, February 11, 2013

Mark's Shrimp Étouffée

We didn't intend for our first experience making étouffée to be just in time for Mardi Gras...just one of those fortuitous coincidences . By all means, don't wait until Mardi Gras to make this, though...we are talking serious Culinary Orgasm here. And it's easier to get to than you think.

First, of course, a little background. "Étouffée" literally means "smothered" in French (side  note : I should get some interesting blog hits using the words "orgasm" and "smothered" in the same post...anyone that's here for the snuff film, your blog is in another castle ;) ). "Smothering" refers to an actual cooking technique wherein your tasty ingredients of choice are cooked in a covered pan over low heat with a small amount of liquid. Étouffée also involves a roux...but not the quick mix of fat and starch that you'd use to thicken a white sauce or gravy. This roux is cooked low and slow until it's nutty and brown and dead sexy. Scientists call this the "Malliard reaction" - the browning creates literally hundreds of different flavor components that do happy dances on your tongue. We just call it OMGWTF good. (If the scientists are boring you, just feed them more and tell them not to talk with their mouths full).

Our own journey with étouffée started with a not-so-great restaurant, actually. We're big fans of Cajun/Creole food here (Mark's jambalaya is legendary), and étouffée is something that we'd read about but never actually had. We'd gotten a line on a Cajun restaurant in the Springfield, MA area that was supposed to be amazing (supposedly complete with alligator jambalaya !), and when we were out there for a sportsman's show we decided to check it out. We were definitely...underwhelmed. No alligator to be had, so Mark went for the étouffée  - edible, but nothing to write home about. Once we tried it, we knew we could do better. I've been after Mark to challenge himself with some new dishes...and with a blizzard this past weekend, he had the perfect opportunity to google himself a couple of recipes (this one was inspired by both Paula Deen's and Emeril's...pretty good sourcing !). I did nothing with this other than eat it...and it was AWESOME. Serious, serious Culinary Orgasm.

A note on the Shrimp Stock: it's definitely worth it to make this homemade as it's very, very easy (and you'll have everything on hand to make the étouffée anyway). This will make enough for two batches of  étouffée; it freezes beautifully and works in so many dishes (may I humbly suggest my own excellent seafood risotto...okay, maybe that wasn't so humble :) ) Oh, and one more note, this time on the rice : we strongly recommend making your rice using chicken stock instead of water, particularly for this adds a very nice touch.

shrimp stock a bubblin'

perfect caramel roux

add the veg...

 simmering !

 sourdough ciabatta rolls make a wonderful side

 ready to eat



Mark’s Shrimp Etouffee
(inspired by Paula Deen and Emeril Lagasse)

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra flour, optional
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup chopped celery
3 – 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, more if desired
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning (Mark used a mix of Emeril's Baby Bam and Essence, as we had mixed up both for some prior recipes...they are very similar, so either would work...or use your favorite blend !)
1/2 cup minced green onions, plus extra for garnish if desired
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley leaves, plus extra for garnish if desired
2 to 3 dashes hot sauce (recommended: Tabasco)
2 cups Shrimp Stock (recipe below)
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice (the fire roasted ones are fantastic in this )
Additional salt to taste
2 pounds medium shrimp (21-25 ct)peeled and deveined (save the shells for the stock !)
Cooked rice, for serving

Peel shrimp and make Shrimp Stock (see below)

Make the roux : melt butter in a large heavy saucepan over low heat. Whisk in flour to form a paste. Continue cooking over low heat and whisk continuously, until the mixture turns a caramel color and gives off a nutty aroma, about 15 to 20 minutes. To the roux, add the onion, green pepper, celery, and garlic and cook over low heat about 5 minutes, until the vegetables are limp. Add pepper, cayenne pepper, Cajun seasoning, parsley, and hot sauce to taste. Add stock and the tomatoes with their juice, stir to blend. Add the salt, starting with 1/2 teaspoon and adding more if needed. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Add shrimp and green onions and stir. It will take about 3 minutes for shrimp to cook, don't overcook. Remove from heat.  Garnish with additional green onions and parsley, if desired. Serve over hot cooked rice.


Shrimp Stock:

Shrimp shells from 2 lbs of shrimp
1 cup coarsely chopped yellow onions
1/2 cup coarsely chopped celery (include the leafy tops)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped carrots
3 smashed garlic cloves
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
Large sprig of fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
2 teaspoons salt

Place the shrimp shells and heads in a large colander and rinse under cold running water for several minutes. Combine the shrimp shells and remaining ingredients in a heavy 6-quart stockpot, add 1 quart water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Skim to remove any foam that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes, skimming occasionally.

Remove the stock from the heat and strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean container; let cool completely. Refrigerate the stock for up to 3 days or freeze in airtight containers for up to 2 months.