There is a most disturbing new trend in South Louisiana cooking these days that is gaining acceptability among traditionalist – cream of mushroom soup in crawfish étouffée. This is nothing short of sacrilege, and it must be stopped at all cost.
Don’t get me wrong. I love to experiment. I enjoy an occasional contemporary twist on a classic. A grits and grillades with gator meat recipe is a prime example of how far I am willing to expand the boundaries of Louisiana classics. But this can opener-enabled madness borders on the ruination of the entire culinary heritage of Cajun and Creole culture.
It is not the first time classic étouffée has come under attack. I recall the tomato paste assault some years ago that had to be rebuffed by the true bayou traditionalists. And now, the time-saving, tin-can cheapsters are pouring on the soupy extenders that rob flavor and render a pound of tail meat utterly inedible.
Étouffée should always be a pedestal dish to showcase the unique flavor and texture of Louisiana crawfish. Treated lightly, this buttery mixture envelopes the tail meat with a rich, flavor-filled coating of golden goodness.
My recipe is simple and the only uniqueness comes in the discovery of a new product, Teche Valley Crawfish Puree that replaces the long ago addition of crawfish fat. Years ago, you could buy crawfish fat in local supermarkets, but due to the short shelf life, it is near impossible to find these days. My good friend Marcelle Bienvenu turned me on to this outstanding Louisiana product made from pulverized crawfish meat and fat – no additives or preservatives.
From time to time, depending on the availability I do use frozen cooked crawfish tails, but in season, there is no substitute for fresh-picked tail meat. When eating boiled crawfish at a restaurant I always save the shells and take home another 3-pound order. The next day, I remove and reserve the tail meat and wash all the heads and shells of excess spice. These shell pieces are simmered in a large pot of water to reduce down into an intense crawfish stock that is a key to the perfect étouffée.
Soup? No thanks. Not in my étouffée.
- 1 pound unsalted butter
- 2 cups diced yellow onion
- 1 cup diced green bell pepper
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 (8-ounce) package Crawfish Puree, optional (see Notes)
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 pounds Louisiana crawfish tail meat
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup crawfish stock or seafood stock
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Dash of hot sauce
- ¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 cup diced green onion tops
- 4 cups cooked Louisiana long-grain white rice, such as Supreme
- In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the onions, bell pepper, and celery. Sauté until tender and add the garlic along with the puree (if using). Lower the heat to simmer and stir to combine. Season the mixture with cayenne and add the crawfish tail meat stirring to combine.
- Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to incorporate and begin cooking the flour. Add some of the stock and continuing stirring until it begins to thicken. Add more stock until you get a stew-like thickness.
- Season to taste with salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Serve over a mound of white rice garnished with chopped parsley and green onion tops.
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