Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Spicy Crawfish Étouffée Recipe

After scanning the internet and my Louisiana cookbooks for a crawfish étouffée recipe, I found one over on NOLAcuisine.com to guide me -- étouffée's a great dish for using up leftover crawfish (or shrimp in a shrimp étouffée recipe).  
Crawfish Etouffee Plated with White Rice (Photo: Lexi Van de Walle)
Saturday, we hosted 35 friends for a traditional crawfish boil at our house in Southampton. We had 70 pounds of live crawfish (aka "mudbugs", craw daddies, crayfish) shipped up from a farm/pond in Natchitoches, LA along with 5 pounds of crawfish seasoning.
Boiled Crawfish in Seasoning with Corn and Potatoes (Photo: Lexi Van de Walle)
As planned, we had a huge amount of crawfish leftovers which I froze to make stock, étouffée, crawfish Monica (which is a pasta dish in a creamy sauce) and to eat whole.  The recipe at NOLAcuise is a "almost the perfect" recipe in my view -- the right amount of thickness, great crawfish flavor and "tingling on your tongue" spiciness. Too many recipes include tomatoes or tomato paste which I don't like in an étouffée, or use corn starch instead of a classic roux (which is criminal) or use water or chicken stock for the base instead of homemade crawfish stock (also criminal) and not enough hot sauce or creole spice (tasteless).  

Yesterday, I made an easy and flavorful homemade crawfish stock, and the NOLAcuisine étouffée recipe with a few modifications.  

Modification 1: I made a peanut butter colored roux from equal parts of flour and butter and set it aside. 

Peanut Butter Roux (Photo: Lexi Van de Walle)
Then, I cook the trinity of onions, celery and green pepper in some melted butter BEFORE adding the roux back to the pan.  

Trinity of Onion, Celery and Green Pepper (Photo: Lexi Van de Walle)

Trinity with Roux (Photo: Lexi Van de Walle)
Modification 2: I had some creole seasoning that I blended last week on hand -- a mix of onion powder, garlic powder, dried herbs (oregano, basil, thyme), peppers (black, white, cayenne, paprika) and celery seed -- so didn't use NOLAcuisine's mix. The recipe/proportions can be found at Gumbo Pages. I added this in right before the roux, which I followed the stock, garlic and herbs as instructed.
Trinity with Creole Seasoning (Photo: Lexi Van de Walle)
Addition of Garlic and Herbs to Crawfish Etouffee (Photo: Lexi Van de Walle)
Modification 3:  I added the peeled crawfish tails into the pan during the last 5 minutes of cooking since they were already pretty well cooked and not 35 minutes earlier as the recipe called for.  
Plate of Peeled Crawfish Tailed Leftover From Saturday's Boil (Photo: Lexi Van de Walle)
Crawfish Etouffee in the Pan (Photo: Lexi Van de Walle)
Modification 4: If you're new to etouffee and Cajun cooking you may want to cut back on the spices that are called for in the recipe and taste and modify as needed right before serving -- I suggest cutting the hot sauce and creole seasoning in half.

The most important step was rinsing off the spices that were left on the crawfish from the crawfish boil before making the stock or peeling the tails. I did this by bathing the crawfish in huge pots of very cold and clean water, rinsing and repeating three times with pots of clean, fresh water until the water ran almost clear.
Ingredients for Crawfish Stock (Photo: Lexi Van de Walle)
Crawfish Stock (Photo: Lexi Van de Walle)
I made a gallon of the stock from heads and tails, water, onion, celery, lemon, garlic, a bay leaf and pepper) and only used a few cups and froze the rest. 

Now that I've found a great recipe for étouffée (with special thanks to Danno at NOLAcuisine, does anyone have a good crawfish Monica recipe? 

About the Crawfish 
Crawfish season runs from December through June in Louisiana's Cajun Country. With the help of experts at LSU AgCenter AquaCulture, Crawfish Farming has becoming part science and art. Check out the mud ponds and traps in the LSU AgCenter's photos.

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