Here is one of my favorite crawfish recipes–Crawfish Étouffée. This is a very popular dish in Louisiana, especially in the spring when crawfish are plentiful. My version is simple to make and it is as good as you will find in any restaurant. Étouffée is a Cajun dish; a thick stew. Crawfish or seafood are smothered with vegetables on the stove in a thick sauce and then served over rice as a main dish. I use a recipe that takes a shortcut to make this a fail-proof dish.
What’s the difference between gumbo and étouffée? They both use very similar ingredients. Lots of vegetables and seafood or meat. Gumbo is a soup, thickened with a roux (browned flour in oil). Étouffée is a stew and is thickened with a “blond roux” or flour which has not been browned. I’d also call this a white sauce.
My recipe is an old one which is stashed away in my recipe files. Years ago I sponsored an employee recipe contest. Employees submitted their favorite recipes; our kitchen staff prepared the recipes and cafeteria patrons voted to select the best one. This recipe was entered for Crawfish Étouffée and was one of the winners. Here is my adaptation.
The recipe uses lots of onion, bell pepper and celery — known as the Cajun “Trinity” of vegetables. These three vegetables are the foundation of many Cajun dishes. They impart a full flavor to the dish. Garlic is not considered to be part of the “Trinity” but it is also added to many Cajun dishes. So, let’s add it too.
The finely chopped vegetables are sauteed on the stove in lots and lots of butter (I cut down on the quantity and substitute margarine). They are cooked long enough to become very soft and turn into “mush.” Then the crawfish, seasonings and thickening are added.
The recipe has two shortcuts. The first is that the recipe uses a can of cream of chicken soup to thicken the stew rather than flour and chicken broth. I balked at this idea at first — but tried it anyway. The result is that the stew is flavorful and you get consistent results every time. It is a simple and fail-proof method to making étouffée. (You can still use flour and chicken broth to thicken the stew if you wish.)
The second shortcut is using Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning to spice up the dish. This gives just the right amount of “zip” to flavor the étouffée or stew. Otherwise, the result is a very bland dish.
Crawfish vs shrimp
Crawfish impart a flavor to this dish which can’t be duplicated with other seafood. Hence, I don’t try to make Shirmp Étouffée, for example. As with the crawfish tarts, which I featured last week, I used peeled crawfish tails from native Louisiana crawfish (not Chinese crawfish). The flavor and texture of the two types of crawfish are very different.
So, try my version of this dish. It’s not difficult to prepare. I think you will be pleased. It can’t be beat–it will stand up to anyone else’s étouffée. And if you’re not sure you like crawfish; this is a good way to learn to eat it.
- 1 lb peeled crawfish tails with fat, defrosted
- 1/4 cup soft margarine
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 green onions with part of green top, sliced
- 2 tsp Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp granulated garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 can Cream of Chicken soup (or 2 Tbsp flour and 1-1/2 cup chicken broth)
- about 1/3 can water
- 2 cups cooked long-grain rice
Method and Steps:
- Heat large heavy skillet or dutch oven to medium high. Add margarine and melt. Then add chopped onion, bell pepper and celery
- Reduce heat to low-medium and saute vegetables until soft and mushy, from 15 – 30 minutes. Stir frequently. Don’t let the vegetables burn; add water if needed and partially cover with lid.
- Add minced garlic and green onions and saute for about 3 additional minutes.
- Return heat to medium. Add defrosted crawfish tails with the fat and stir to combine.
- Then add Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning. Add salt, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper and stir to combine. Stir and cook the crawfish in the vegetables and seasonings over medium heat for about 5 minutes until cooked through.
- Add the Cream of Chicken soup and up to 1/3 can water to thin the stew, if needed. Cook until bubbly and heated through.
- Ladle onto plates and serve with rice.
NOTE: If you prefer a more traditional étouffée, use flour to thicken the stew rather than the chicken soup. Add flour to the sauteed crawfish tails, then slowly stir in the chicken broth. The flour is not browned in an étouffée. It is “blond roux.” Add more chicken broth, if needed, to thin the stew.
Enjoy this traditional Cajun dish!