It’s both a party in a skillet and the kind of soulful, comfort meal you might be served by your grandmother (if you’re lucky, she’s from Breaux Bridge). We’re talking étouffée, one of the most famous and beloved Cajun dishes around. Étouffée can be made with shrimp, but its best incarnation is made with rich, flavorful crawfish tail meat from Southwest Louisiana.
I learned to make the dish from New Orleans Chef Donald Link, when we collaborated on the cookbook “Real Cajun.” (Shameless pride: the book won a James Beard Award for Best American Cookbook.) A buttery chicken stock (homemade or store bought) pulls the aromatics, spices, and crawfish together into the same soothing chord. After simmering, all this dish needs is a Cajun soundtrack, steamed rice, cold beer and your favorite hot sauce.
Recipe lightly adapted from “Real Cajun” by Donald Link
You’ll typically find crawfish tail meat frozen, in 1-lb cryovac packages. (As long as the crawfish is from Louisiana, the results will be delicious.) Allow frozen crawfish to thaw overnight in the fridge, or thaw them in a large pot under a steady stream of water. For the best flavor, squeeze every bit of juice and fat into your skillet.
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed seeded and finely chopped
4 bay leaves (preferably fresh)
1 tablespoon Chica Licka Bam Bam seasoning
2 pounds Louisiana crawfish tail meat
¼ cup all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock
Juice of ½ lemon (plus more as desired)
Steamed white rice
Thinly sliced scallions
Chopped parsley (optional)
Hot sauce (such as Crystal or Tabasco)
Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, jalapeno, bay leaves, and Chica Licka Bam Bam and cook, stirring, until softened, 8-10 minutes. Add the crawfish meat and the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter and cook until the butter has melted.
Sprinkle the mixture with the flour and stir until all the ingredients are coated. Stir in the chicken stock and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until slightly thickened and they begin to break down and release their sweetness. Stir in the lemon juice and taste for seasonings, adding more salt, lemon, or hot sauce as desired.
Serve the etouffee over rice, garnished with scallions, parsley, lemon, and a few dashes of hot sauce.
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