Like so many dishes in Louisiana (as in other food-obsessed cultures), classic recipes tend to vary from town to town, neighborhood to neighborhood, block to block, and kitchen to kitchen (and in my case, even within the same kitchen). Crawfish Étouffée (smothered crawfish) is a perfect example of this. And right now happens to be when all the little crawfish minding their own business in their mud chimneys all over Louisiana start looking for ways to get out of town, lest they end up smothered in butter (and other goodies) and served on a plate, or boiled peppery red and spread out on newspaper-covered beer trays out in some back yard.
So I figure it’s just good timing to bring out my own household’s Crawfish Étouffée recipe(s). The recipe below is the one I prefer. The “other” recipe in my kitchen (also prepared by me – who else?!?) involves adding diced mushrooms and a 10-ounce can of Rotel® diced tomatoes with peppers. I make either of these recipes, depending on my mood. I like the addition of mushrooms because I like mushrooms and they have a compatible consistency when sautéed along with crawfish (or shrimp – which you can use in place of crawfish if you can’t get the Louisiana-produced product*).
2 cups chopped onion
½ cup diced celery
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup diced bell pepper (I prefer red)
3 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces white mushrooms, diced (optional)
1 cup of diced, skinless fresh tomato (or 1 can of Rotel tomatoes)
1 quarter pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 pound raw, peeled crawfish tails (use medium shrimp if you can’t get Louisiana crawfish)
Seasoning to taste (My Cajun seasoning mix = 1 part black, 1/2 part white, 1/2 part red pepper, 1 part Kosher salt, and 1/2 part of celery seeds if you don’t like to use fresh celery)
Sauté the first four ingredients in the olive oil, until clear. About five minutes. Add mushrooms (optional) and sauté an additional five minutes. Add the butter and diced tomatoes; cook covered on medium heat for 20 minutes. Stir in the crawfish tails, simmer for 10 minutes, covered. Season to taste. Serve over white or saffron rice.
* Buying crawfish raised and processed outside of Louisiana is always a gamble, for a variety of reasons. It’s like getting bagels produced anywhere outside of New York City (although Montreal swears theirs are better, and having had one, once – I must say I wasn’t totally disappointed but that’s as far as I’ll go on that). It also has to do with technique, for sure, but, like bagels, the culprit seems to be the water they’re produced in. Crawfish produced in Scandinavia (yes, it happens there – OMG!) and China (they produce everything else, so why not?) lose something in the translation: namely, flavor. You just don’t want that stuff – unless you like the taste of unseasoned tofu.
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