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.

Cook's Notes:

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.

Shrimp Etouffee

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)
Kosher Salt

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.


Mike said...

Ninette - Congratulations on the anniversary. As long as you keep having such great posts and beautiful pictures, I'll be reading!

Table Talk said...

Happy Blogversary, Ninette!

Here's to another successful year of great food :D
My family loved your Chicken Adobo that I made a few weeks ago during the snow storm...made the whole house smell wonderful.

p.s. This Shrimp Etoufee sounds like the real thing. Love the Dos Equis!

Aggie said...

Wow it's been a year!! You have so many amazing recipes are really inspiring. I am so happy we met virtually in blog world...congrats on your year!

Um and yea, I'll take a plate of this too.

foodhoe said...

what lovely memories... congratulations on your anniversary, awesome dish to celebrate with. Looks incredible!

La Table De Nana said...

Happy Anniversary~This is a joyful bright place..The first time I read about this dish..was w/ the Divine Secrets Of The Yaya Sisterhood..I loved that book..Thank you for the real thing:)

Ju (The Little Teochew) said...

Dear Ninette, congratulations on this milestone! Happy Blogversary to BBBF ... truly a wonderful blog!

Barbara Bakes said...

Congratulations on a wonderful first year! The shrimp dish looks festive and delicious!

zurin said...

Congratulations Ninette on you blogversary!! that prawn dish looks amazing and i lok forward to many more scrumptious posts from you!!!

Steve said...

Beautiful shrimp. Happy Blogversary. Like the note about comments. You're special becasue you were the ever to offer a comment when I launched back in September. For that, and because of your great site, you earned a spot on my blogroll. Thank you.

~~louise~~ said...

Oh Happy Day, Ninette!!! Congratulations on your blogoversary. Isn't the world of food blogging absolutely amazing!!!

Your Shrimp Etouffee has so much WOW I can hardly control myself. Thank you so much for sharing...Here's to many more years of blogging fun!!!

P.S. I spent my early childhood living on Houston St. on the lower east-side:)

Anonymous said...

Little trick I learned back in the day. Duck or chicken fat makes the very best roux.

Congrats on the 1 year mark. Food blogging has really helped stretch my skills since starting. Good luck on the mezze.

Skip to Malou said...

COngratulations on your milestone. I;m glad to have bumped into you here at the blogsphere... here's to more years of blogging... CHeers!

Trissa said...

Happy Anniversary Ninette! Amazing how blogging can change your life right?! :) Thanks for sharing the Shrimp Etouffee - have never tried this dish before but sounds so festive!

Memória said...

Happy Blogiversary!! This dish looks fabulous!

_ts of [eatingclub] vancouver said...

Thanks for the recipe. My sister-in-law and I took a trip to New Orleans many years ago and etouffée was her favorite dish!

Kevin said...

That shrimp looks tasty! I have been wanting to try making etouffee.

Ken said...

Happy One Year. Etouffee seems appropriate. It's like a party!

Culinary Cory said...

Happy belated blogversary! The shrimp sounds yummy.

Keesha said...

Nice post, we referenced it on our website for a Mardi Gras post. Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez!