Friday Night is the Right Time for Shrimp Étouffée

Baby it is cold outside. I’m ready to get in the house where it’s warm, pour a glass of wine and get my cook on. This is the perfect time of year for a hot and spicy dish. I picked up a couple pounds of large shrimp recently that was in need of a purpose. With andouille sausage already on hand and shrimp stock hanging out in my freezer, it was like a tractor beam pulling these three ingredients together. But what to make with them?

A nice gumbo or jambalaya would be tasty, but what came to mind that could warm a chilly day was a bowl of Shrimp Étouffée. This is a solid, down home New Orleans meal. It can be spiced up or kept mild. Regardless, plenty of flavor comes through from all the vegetables, shrimp and sausage. Be prepared to chop up some ingredients, but it’s therapeutic and relaxing. Put some Christmas tunes on, pour another glass of wine and this recipe will come together beautifully.

SHRIMP ÉTOUFFÉE

Ingredients: 1/2 cup unsalted butter; 1/4 cup all-purpose flour; 3 medium onions (chopped); 2 medium green bell peppers (chopped); 3 stalks celery (chopped); 3 cloves garlic (chopped); 1 pound andouille sausage (chopped); 1 tablespoon tomato paste; 2 pounds medium shrimp (peeled & deveined); 1 cup shrimp stock; 1 tablespoon Creole seasoning; 1/4 teaspoon black pepper; 1/4 teaspoon white pepper; 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper; 3/4 cup green onions (white and green parts chopped); 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley (chopped); and 4 cups cooked white rice.

As they say in the Deep South, “first you make a roux.” This is the hardest, yet easiest thing to create and mess up at the same time. But before we go down this path, let’s take care of the shrimp stock. This is an ingredient many might have questions about. If possible, it’s best to get this out of the way the night before, plus the necessary shrimp will already be shelled.

SHRIMP STOCK

Ingredients: 2 pounds shrimp heads/shells (from 6 pounds whole shrimp); 8 cups water; 1/2 cup onion (chopped); 1/2 cup green bell pepper (chopped); 1/2 cup celery (chopped); and 3 bay leaves.

If not living in shrimp country it’s doubtful there will be head-on shrimp available. No worries. You can simply utilize the shells from the 2 pounds of shrimp being used in the Shrimp Étouffée recipe. Shell the 2 pounds of shrimp and place the shrimp into a container and put into the fridge for later use. Put the shells into a large stockpot and add water to the pot, along with the onion, bell pepper, celery, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil over high heat and continue cooking until the liquid is reduced by half. Strain, reserving the liquid and discarding the shells, along with the other ingredients. Place in sealed container and refrigerate. Any stock not used in immediate recipe may be kept refrigerated for a week or frozen for later use.

*     *     *     *     *

With the stock being made the night before, or defrosted from a previous making, now we can return to making the roux.

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large skillet and stir in the flour. Turn heat down to medium-low and cook, stirring constantly, as the blond mixture of butter and flour begins to darken. Continue cooking until mixture becomes a light brown or caramel color. It does not need to be any darker for this recipe. Proper roux resides on a fine line between getting dark and being burnt. When making a butter roux, do not stop stirring it or leave the room for a minute. It burns fast. Just keep stirring it until a blond-caramel color is reached.

Add all the onions, green peppers, celery and garlic into the roux and cook, stirring, until the vegetables soften, about 10 minutes.

Pour another glass of wine.

After the vegetables are softened, place the chopped sausage into the pan and sauté with contents, about another 10 minutes.

Blend in the tomato paste, stirring until incorporated entirely.

Time for the shrimp! Dump all the shelled shrimp into the pan and cook over medium heat until pink, about 5 minutes.

Pour in the shrimp stock and stir until the sauce starts to thicken. This should be dense, but have a viscous texture. If it remains too thick add additional stock a 1/4 cup at a time.

Stir in Creole seasoning, black pepper, white pepper, cayenne pepper, green onion and parsley; cover the pot and simmer for 15 minutes over low heat.

Serve in bowls over white rice. A nice Louisiana hot sauce can be added to kick up the heat. Makes eight solid servings.

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