Welcome to week 18 of Fifty States of New Recipe Tuesday. This week we welcome the state of Louisiana, who joined the union on April 30, 1812.
So here are some fun facts about Louisiana. It is the only state in the union that does not have counties. Their divisions are called parishes. It has the tallest state capitol building in the US; it is 450 feet tall with 34 floors. It was named after King Louis XIV. And it is known as both the Creole and Cajun capitals of the world.
So what better way to celebrate this great food state than with a dish that has variations in both of these food styles ~ Crawfish Étouffée. The history of this dish dates back to the 1950s, with some records indicating it may have been made even as early as the 1920s. It started in the bayous and backwaters of Cajun country and didn’t make it to the larger cities (like New Orleans) until the early 1980s. The story has it that a waiter at a popular Bourbon Street restaurant called Galatoire’s brought the dish in to his boss to try. At the time most of the food in New Orleans was French Creole, but when this Cajun dish was introduced, it was an immediate hit. The rest, they say, is history.
The word Étouffée is French and literally translated means “to smother”. Smothering is an actual cooking style in cajun and creole cooking, where found, usually seafood, is cooked at a simmer in a small amount of liquid for a long time. This dish sort of does that, although it really starts with a roux and then cooks out vegetables with liquid to form a gravy. It is only at the end that the crawfish is added.
In looking for a recipe to try, I found there were hundreds of versions, although all used the same slow browning method to form the roux. This is a critical step in the dish, so don’t rush it. Some versions brown out the roux to a deep mahogany color, while others keep it much lighter to the color of peanut butter. I opted for the lighter color version, both for time and flavor.
This recipe is from the famous New Orleans chef Emeril Lagasse. I really liked it, but now looking at my ingredient list, I am thinking that it would have been better if it had been “kicked up a notch”. Although it contains cayenne pepper, I think it would be even better if it had some more authentic Cajun or Creole seasoning. Something to work through on a future occasion! Regardless, I give this one a solid A, and even Josh thought it was really good. I will make this one again.
Enjoy, and see you next week in Indiana!
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 cups seafood stock (if you can’t find, substitute chicken stock)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
Cayenne, as needed (I added about 3/4 tsp)
Smoked paprika, as needed (I added about 3/4 tsp)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound crawfish tails
First, you make a roux. In a Dutch oven, add the butter over medium-high heat and melt. Add the flour and whisk until combined and there are no lumps in the flour. Continue to stir with a wooden spoon until the butter and flour mixture browns to the color of peanut butter, 10 to 15 minutes. Make sure to stir continuously and do not allow the mixture to burn. If you notice little black specks, discard the roux and start over.
Once the roux is sufficiently dark, add the garlic, celery, onion and bell pepper and stir. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the seafood stock and bring to a simmer. Add the parsley, tomato paste, thyme, bay leaves and some cayenne, paprika, salt and pepper. Stir and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes. Add the crawfish tails and simmer for another 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Remove the bay leaves before serving.
Serve over rice.