Just think of it: Fresh Louisiana crawfish tail meat swimming in a lightly thickened butter sauce infused with spices and aromatics over a mound of white rice. This is the purest expression of Cajun cooking I know and love. It’s that time of year, and in case you missed it, here is my recipe.
But the time-honored recipe for crawfish étouffée is under assault. There is a most disturbing trend in South Louisiana cooking these days that is gaining acceptability among traditionalists–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 Crawfish 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.
Crawfish Étouffée should always be a centerpiece 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.
From time to time, depending on the availability I do use frozen cooked Louisiana 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 Crawfish Étouffée.
- 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter
- 2 cups diced yellow onion
- 1 cup diced green bell pepper
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 pounds Louisiana crawfish tail meat
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1½ cups 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
- 6 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. 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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