Sunday dinner didn’t happen this weekend – Ben went to an invitation-only slightly-sketchy MMA fight (less sketchy then bare knuckles and cardboard-covered basement floors, but more sketchy than real, actual sanctioned fights) and I ate my two-pairs-of-chopsticks sushi takeout on the coffee table and watched the Bears-Packers game while focusing on the steely eyes of salt-and-peppery Brett Favre.

But – that doesn’t mean I won’t share a recipe this week. In fact, I’ll break out a biggie – my family’s time-tested down-home bayou-approved recipe for shrimp etouffee. If you’re not familiar with the dish, it’s a Cajun thing, of a stew-like consistency (but don’t ever, ever call it stew out loud), served over white rice. Etoufee means “to smother” in French and I would say that’s all you really need to know to imagine the rich, smooth seafood deliciousness that is this meal.

It’s also the great combination of being 1) pretty easy to make and 2) very fancy and exotic. Break this out at a dinner party, and your name will be sung throughout the ages. Cook this for new significant others, your significant others’ parents, or any other people you’d like to wow and they’ll leave thinking, “Wow, I was really impressed with Sarah – she’s just so… decadent, smooth, and rich.”

The one downside is the butter. There’s a lot of it. We’re talking about a cow’s worth of butter. And I’ve tried cutting back on it, but it just doesn’t taste as good. My advice is to only cook it on special nights (like Sundays) and to never, never tell your guests that you bought out the dairy section put together their meal.

Crawfish or Shrimp Etouffee (serves three)

  1. Melt a stick of butter in a large skillet; use medium heat; be careful not to burn.
  2. Add 1/2 c. finely chopped celery, 2 smashed garlic cloves, 5-6 chopped green onions. 
  3. Sauté on low for about 10 minutes. 
  4. Add 3T flour; using a whisk, stir sporadically and cook for 5 minutes on low heat (this is called a roux, which is a Creole sauce base. It is delicious. When you don’t think about the butter).
  5. Add 2T parsley (fresh is best) 1t salt, 1/4 t cayenne pepper (or to your taste, but the dish should be spicy), and about 1 1/2 c. water.  Stir with whisk as you add the water.  Mixture should be the consistency of thin gravy. (You may have to increase the amount of water.)
  6. Add 1 lb. shrimp or crawfish tails (previously thawed and peeled) and simmer for 15 minutes on low.  Remove from heat and let sit for a few minutes or longer to enhance flavors. 
  7. Serve over hot white rice.

Some recipes use regular chopped onions and green peppers in addition to the celery and garlic.  Some recipes add tomato paste, but these are not REAL Cajun etoufee recipes. In fact, if you are ever served etouffee with tomatoes in it, you should push the plate away, scoff, and say something damning about the cook your best Cajun drawl — maybe even something about how it’s like a stew.