Ash Wednesday Etouffee

Although the Catholic church no longer insists on abstinence during Lent, most Catholics still refrain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays during the 40 days which begin this Wednesday. I’ve never considered abstaining from meat a hardship, it’s the perfect opportunity to experiment with seafood and vegetarian fare. And here’s an easy recipe to start you off right. Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients – it’s actually quite simple to prepare.

Etouffee

Serves: 4
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green bell peppers, chopped
  • 1/4 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 1 1/2 cup shrimp stock (can substitute chicken stock, if necessary) (directions below)
  • 1lb Shrimp, fresh or defrosted, preferrably unpeeled (medium to large size are best)
  • 1/2 cup corn, fresh or defrosted
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, chopped, plus additional for garnish
  • Cooked long grain rice, for serving

FOR THE STOCK (if making)

  • 3 cups raw shrimp shells and tails
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small carrot, chopped
  • 1/2 medium celery stalk
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth (preferably dry, or vermouth)
  • 1 medium fresh tomato, or 1/2 cup canned plum tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf

1. Make the stock (if using): Peel the shrimp and remove tails. In a large saucepan over high heat, heat the oil until amost smoking and saute the shrimp shells and tails, onion, carrot and celery for 5 minutes, stirring. Add the water, wine, tomato and bay leaf. Reduce to medium, partly cover, and simmer 40 minutes. Strain though cheesecloth or a fine strainer.

2. Make the etouffee: In a large heavy pot (cast iron, if you have one), melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the flour and cook. Using a spatula, stir the roux scraping the entire bottom of the pot every time. Using a spatula allows you to move all of the mixture around and you don’t have to make more than a few passes to do it. Stir the mixture every 15 seconds or so. The roux will bubble at first then will get smooth as it cooks. WARNING.. Don’t be tempted to walk away and do something else, if the roux burns at any point during the process, it is no good. Cook until you have a blonde roux, the colour of light peanut butter. Add the onions, celery, bell peppers, green onions, garlic, bay leaves, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the sherry and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, add corn, and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice and shrimp and cook until shrimp are no longer translucent (about 2 minutes depending on size).

4. Remove the bay leaves. Stir in the parsley and remove from the heat.

Adjust the seasoning, to taste. Serve over rice, garnished with additional parsley.

Note: Anytime you have shrimp, just put the raw shells in a zipper bag in the freezer until you have enough to make stock. The stock can be frozen for several weeks.

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