Monday, February 15, 2010
Happy 1st Year Blogversary to BBB and Shrimp Etouffee for Mardi Gras
A year ago this month I launched Big, Bold, Beautiful Food.
What started as a new year's resolution to achieve work-life balance and cook more for my family has been so much more than I expected. I've made many new friends, been wowed by all the great cooking going on in the blog world, and have had hours of fun cooking and writing about my life through the lens of food.
To those of you who read and comment on my blog, thank you. You enrich and nourish me. As many bloggers will tell you, we live for the comments!
To my friends and family whom I write about, thank you. I am blessed to know you.
Since today is Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras in New Orleans, I am celebrating my blog's birthday with shrimp etouffee.
The first time I had etouffee was at the Louisiana Community Bar & Grill on Broadway near Houston in New York City in the early 1990s. At that time the Food Network was a fledging network on from 11 pm to 2 am in the morning, Emeril was the inexperienced, stuttering, and thin tv host of How to Boil Water, and dishes like gumbo, jambalaya, and etouffee were unknown to the majority of the country.
I ordered the crawfish etouffee, not knowing what to expect, and I was blown away by its spicy, bold flavors. I fell in love.
My friend Rob did too. I met his girlfriend Claire that night for the first time. Now she and Rob have been married for 14 years and have four awesome kids.
He got a family. I got etouffee. Sounds like a successful night all around.
1) For etouffee you make a Cajun roux. A roux is equal parts flour and oil/butter (or a little more oil than 1/2) cooked together and used to thicken gravies and sauces. The difference with a Cajun roux is that you brown the flour until it's as dark as peanut butter or even darker (about a 7-minute roux), which achieves a nutty, browned flavor. Or if you have time, you can cook it even longer, up to 30-40 minutes for a roux the color of dark brick, which will have more flavor and color. As you brown the flour, it loses some of its thickening power, which is fine.
I usually will make a roux of 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup oil with two cups of liquid as my standard ratio. For etouffee, you can use shrimp stock, diluted clam juice (1/2 clam juice, 1/2 water), and/or beer for the liquid. In the recipe below, I simmered the shrimp shells with beer and water.
There are several rules of thumb when making Cajun roux. 1) Don't leave your roux unattended. Stir constantly so it doesn't burn. If it burns, it will have black flecks in it, and you have to throw it out and start over. 2) Be careful not to burn yourself with what's called "Cajun napalm." The stuff is hot. 3) Be patient. You could be there stirring for quite awhile.
Experienced Cajun roux makers heat the the oil/butter mixture over high heat until it's almost at its smoking point and whisk in the flour, stirring over high heat until it's where they want. If you're afraid you can't handle the roux over high heat, turn the heat down to medium or medium-high. It may take longer, but you'll get there eventually.
(Note: To avoid the stirring and possible burning of the roux, Alton Brown mixes his roux paste in a dutch oven and then sticks it into a 450-degree oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes until it reaches a dark brick color. This would take 30-40 minutes on the stove with frequent sstirring.)
2) When the roux is the color you want, add your vegetables, which is the Cajun mirepoix of diced onions, celery, and green bell pepper (vs. the French mirepoix of onions, celery, and carrots). The veggies will cool down the roux and then you will cook the veggies until they are translucent.
3) When the veggies are cooked, you can add your liquid slowly and Cajun seasoning until it makes a sauce. Simmer down to concentrate the flavors and then add the shrimp which will cook quickly.
For printable recipe, click here.
1-1/2 lb. large shrimp with shells (if you don't have shrimp with shells, buy a bottle of clam juice)
1 bottle Dos Equis
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 tbs. butter
2 tbs. oil
1/4 cup flour
1 can Rotel tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 tbs.+ Penzey's Cajun Seasoning (or Prudhomme's or Emeril's Bayou Blast)
Sliced scallions for garnish
Fresh parsley for garnish
Peel shrimp and add shrimp shells to a small/medium saucepan and shrimp in a bowl. Toss shrimp with cajun seasoning and put the bowl in the fridge.
Add bottle of Dos Equis and 1/2 cup of water to shrimp shells in saucepan. Set to a simmer for 10-15 minutes. When done, strain out shrimp shells for about 2 cups of liquid. If you don't have shrimp shells, you can set aside 1 cup clam juice and 1 cup dos Equis for your liquid at this point.
Put garlic, celery, onion, and bell pepper in a bowl and set next to the stove. Have flour, a whisk and wooden spoon next to the stove too.
In a large saucepan or medium-sized dutch oven, heat oil and butter over high heat until almost smoking. Add flour and whisk until incorporated, turning down heat to medium if you're worried about burning the roux. Keep stirring for 5-7 minutes until the roux has become the color of peanut butter or darker. Do not leave the roux unattended at any time and keep stirring.
When the roux is the desired color, add the vegetables and cook for about ten minutes or until the vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally. Halfway into cooking the vegetables, add some salt and 2 tsp. of cajun seasoning to the vegetable-roux mixture.
When the vegetables are cooked, add the tomatoes and stir to incorporate. Add 2 cups of liquid to the roux, 1/4 cup at a time so that the sauce does not become lumpy. Add 2 bay leaves. Cook at a simmer for 30 minutes or until at desired consistency (from stew-like to soupy) and then add shrimp. If it's too thick, you can always add water; if too thin, continue cooking down before you add the shrimp.
When shrimp is cooked -- around 5-7 minutes -- the etouffee is ready to serve. Sprinkle with parsley and scallions and serve with rice.