Sunday, April 10, 2011

Étouffée: Recipe

One of my favorite dishes of all time used to be called Catfish Zoe by the chef/owner of the now defunct From the Bayou in Tacoma, Washington.  Catfish Zoe was a piece of flash-fried catfish--perfect and delicious in it's own right--smothered in crawfish étouffée, which was also amazing and delicious.  The chef was born and raised in Louisiana, and so he really did know his Cajun food, and the restaurant was a local hangout, particularly for Pacific Lutheran University students (the further point of the university was maybe 10 minutes away), with great food and a funky atmosphere.  The restaurant also had a website, on which the chef posted the recipes (though I'm guessing he altered them slightly).  So even though "Bayou" is gone, I can still recreate the many nights I spent too much money and drank too much wine--half-priced bottles of wine on Wednesdays--instead of studying.

I'm posting this now, because my parents are here in England, and will be joining us on Tuesday for a few days, before staying at my in-laws for a few more days.  Though my mother-in-law thinks I should make traditional English food for my folks, or something they wouldn't normally eat, this actually does fall into the second category.  Besides, all of my "traditional" British cooking has my own spin, and rarely ends up being English. Hey, we from the Pacific Northwest (or really, anywhere on the West Coast) believe in fusion cooking!

The recipe that follows is mine.  Though I originally based it on the one posted on From the Bayou's website, I've made so many changes, additions, and subtractions that it really doesn't resemble the original.  I will, however, include the opening paragraph, because it's informative.  I've copied it verbatim, hence the . . . well, let's just say that's not how I would have written it, punctuation-wise at least.

Etouffe means to "smother" in cajun cooking, it means covering a dish with a spicy sauce.  This sauce usually has one or a combination of crawfish, seafood, chicken or vegetables.  This is our most popular dish a From The Bayou.  A little 'lagniappe' info: the longer you cook the etouffe, the better the flavors.

2 tablespoons Butter
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
Bacon Grease (optional, not much as it can burn--don't use it to replace the olive oil)
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/2 tablespoon Garlic Powder/Granules
1-2 dashes Tabasco
Salt (to taste)
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper (to taste)
2 teaspoons Garlic, minced
3 cups Onions, chopped
1 cup Bell Peppers, chopped (color of your choice, I prefer orange, red, and/or yellow)
2 1/2 cups Mushrooms, diced (about 2 cups), and sliced (about 1/2 cup)
1 Andouille Sausage, diced (optional, and should be the precooked variety)
1 tablespoon Flour (white, NOT self-rising)
1/2 cup Whipping/Heavy/Double Cream
2 cups Half and Half/Single Cream
3 ounces Tomato Paste (half of one of the small cans)
Prawns/Shrimp, Crawfish, Chicken, or other meat/seafood (or vegetables)
Lemon Juice

Melt butter and olive oil and bacon grease in a large, heavy-duty pot (I recommend Le Creuset, but anything like a dutch oven is good).  Add the onions, peppers, garlic, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, Tabasco, salt, and pepper.  Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent (about 10-15 minutes).  Add all the mushrooms and the andouille sausage and sauté for another 7-8 minutes.  Add the flour and mix it in thoroughly, cooking and stirring for 1 minute.  Add the cream and half and half.  Cook until the cream thickens, stirring often.  Try not to let it boil (a small amount of bubbling is fine).  Add the tomato paste and cook for another 15 minutes, still avoiding the boil.  Add the desired seafood or meat.  After the seafood/meat is cooked, add lemon juice to taste, and more salt if necessary.  The longer the étouffée simmers, the tastier it is.

**My Notes**
Andouille sausage really makes this dish, but it's not always easy to find.  If you're in Eugene, Long's Meat Market stocks cooked andouille, and it's wonderful.  If you live in England and you can find andouille (NOT chorizo, they are nothing alike and I wouldn't substitute one for the other ever) please tell me where so I can get some.

The tomato paste amount is approximate.  If you've had From the Bayou's étoufée, you might remember it's a pale pink color.  That's what you're going for (it takes a lot of stirring and then suddenly the color changes, so be patient).  I think it's about half a small can of tomato paste.  It seems that the small cans of tomato paste are the same basic size in both England and the US, and they seem to be just under 6 ounces or 150 grams.

I love crawfish, but I stopped using it, because I won't catch/crack my own, and all the pre-dressed crawfish I've seen comes from China and I'm a bit leery about using a lot of food products from that part of the world.

It's not supposed to boil.  It will.  Try to keep it from a rolling boil.  Burned cream sucks, so keep it at a simmer and stir often.

This is best served over flash-fried fish, but if you're lazy, it's good with rice or cornbread (a difficult endeavor in the UK as cornmeal is hard to find; look for dried polenta).  Bacon cornbread is always a treat, as is jalapeño cornbread.  Note that the bacon can just be precooked and crumbled into the batter with no problems, but the jalapeños need to be well drained or the cornbread's texture will change.  My friend Sarah uses a half-muffin, half-cornbread mix for better consistency, but I like playing with fire (read: I'm lazy).

If it looks all pretty when I make it tomorrow and serve it on Tuesday, I will add pictures to the post.  Otherwise, enjoy the recipe!