Sometimes I just crave the flavors of Naw’lins. Cajun, Creole, it doesn’t matter. And with Mardi Gras just around the corner I just had to make Shrimp Etouffee.
Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, to put it simply, is traditionally the last day of partying before the Lenten season. I didn’t grow up with any knowledge of Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday, but we did fast during Lent. And ate a lot of Tuna Casseroles like this one from Meta Given, you know, the one topped with potato chips and/or cheese. And fish sticks.
Tuna Casseroles & Hot Lunch Fish Sticks. The bane of my childhood. And yet I put still another Tuna Casserole on my blog, this from my daughter. It’s really good. But I digress.
Whether you just love Cajun/Creole cooking, or are just thinking of New Orleans during this time of year, or looking for a meatless meal to get you through Lent, do try this dish. It’s one of my favorites.
Like many “down home” meals, Shrimp Etouffee, despite the fancy name, is a really just a great way to take a little shrimp, add a lot of flavor and a sauce and stretch that shrimp into a meal for a few or a crowd.
Lent is a great time of year to enjoy seafood and fish; the stores will generally have specials. Back in the day, they’d flat out advertise for Lent. Now, you’ll just usually see the specials popping up from now until Easter.
Shrimp Etouffee is just a little spicy. Add more spice to taste and pass the hot sauce (I don’t think this is complete w/o hot sauce) if you want to feel the burn. There’s also a decision to be made. You can make your roux (the butter/flour mixture) light or dark or any shade in between. I like it medium for this dish – it takes a few minutes, but is still easy and still dark enough to add a distinctive flavor. You can read more about a dark or “red” roux and the stages to get there on this post.
- ½ cup butter
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 large onion, diced
- ½ green bell pepper, diced
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- 3-4 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups liquid: fish stock, clam juice, broth or water (see note)
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Cajun Seasoning, or more to taste
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1/2 to 1 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined (see note)
- green onions or parsley, sliced for garnish
- white rice for serving
To make a roux, melt butter in a large heavy saucepan (cast iron is perfect, but any heavy-bottomed pot or pan will do) over medium to medium-low heat. Whisk in flour and stir continuously until the roux reaches your desired color. If the heat is too high or you stop stirring, you risk burning the roux. If there are dark fleks, you’ve burnt it and will need to start over.
I like a medium colored roux for this dish. Darker than blonde but not the color of a copper penny, and it will take about 6 to 8 minutes to get there. The vegetables are added to the cooked roux and it does continue to darken just a bit as they cook.
Turn heat to low and add the onion, green pepper and celery. Continue to cook for about five minutes, stirring quite frequently until vegetables begin to soften. Add garlic and cook for a minute longer.
Add the stock while stirring and bring to a boil. Add Cajun Spice to taste and reduce to a simmer, stirring now and then for about 15 minutes. Taste for salt & pepper. Add shrimp and cook 2 to 3 minutes until shrimp is done.
Serve sprinkled with green onions or chopped parsley, accompanied by white rice and pass hot sauce.
Sometimes I’ll toss the shrimp in a little of the Cajun Spice mix and let it sit while I make the rest of the meal.If desired, use the shells of the shrimp to make a stock. Place shells in a medium sized saucepan, add about 2 1/2 cups of water and a little (about 1/4 teaspoon) Old Bay seasoning, if desired. Simmer for about 20 minutes as you prepare the rest of the dish and get the roux going. Strain and use two cups in the recipe.
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