Creativity is a creature that can be subject to a great deal of ebb and flow. Hell, even mental clarity and capacity can be subject to the same whims. Luckily, no matter what kind of murky fog I find myself in, simple food can still bring a great deal of pleasure. Gratefully, some dishes come down to almost muscle memory at some point. This makes the joy of a good meal something that does not need to be carefully finessed out of some strange and mysterious fairy land of mystical cooking.
I know that crawfish étouffée can sound intimidating. Other than chopping up the holy trinity and making a roux, it’s not that complex. And if you have cheated, like I did for this version, and purchase a frozen block of beautiful wild tail meat… well, that makes it even easier. No cracking, peeling and shelling to be done. I find that when I am doing that, half the tails end up in my mouth while a rather meager amount is left over to cook with. It happens. So you see, the frozen tails are in actuality a blessing for a crawfish laden finished dish.
These Seana Crawfish were another in the plethora of seafoodies that were procured at Joe Patti’s in Pensacola - and I do have to say I would be happy if I could have 10 blocks in the freezer at all times. Unfortunately, freezer size will have to grow before that can become a reality. Why is there never enough room?
This is another one of my ‘vague on proportions’ recipe. I don’t think I make things consistently anyway. I go by the notions of ‘what looks right’ and ‘taste it and balance it.’ True and unfortunate story.
First, put on a pot of rice to cook.
Now you can begin by making your mise en place. For this recipe I used:
• 4 Cloves of garlic - chopped fine
• 1 Shallot - chopped fine
• 1 Large onion - chopped
• 3 Large ribs of celery - chopped
• 1 Red bell pepper - chopped
• 3-4 Bay leaves
• 2-3 Sprigs of thyme
Next, make your roux. It doesn’t have to be dark and chocolatey. You can cook your roux to the degree of golden brown that you like (or have patience for). A couple of tablespoons of oil (or oil and butter) go into a sauté pan with a couple of tablespoons of flour. Cook over medium heat until you are tired of stirring. Just be careful while stirring because this stuff is like napalm and will give you some nasty burns if you are not careful.
Add vegetables in order, giving them a minute to sauté before adding the next - then add the herbs.
Season with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and a bit of Tony’s Creole Seasoning if you wish.
I added about a tablespoon of tomato paste to give it some additional depth.
Add a splash of white wine or beer and cook until the vegetables are soft.
Add the thawed crawfish tail meat and all the juices and fat from the bag. (O, and I had about 5 shrimp that got thrown into the pool as well.)
Cook just until the tails are hot.
Taste and season again as necessary.
Some people will add cream to their étouffée - I suppose to try and bring a more Frenchy flair to it. I don’t really see the need to do such a thing. I did however do something very weird and sacrilegious to this meal though that I am somewhat hesitant to mention. However it DID give the finished product a little nuance that I liked. Do or don’t it is up to you. I put 1 spoonful of sour cream into the finished batch. Don’t send hate mail.
Spoon a generous amount of the étouffée into shallow bowls (removing thyme stems and whole bay leaves as needed). Place a scoop of rice into the center and sprinkle with a little bit of thyme leaves. With a dash of hot sauce and an icy cold beer, a heavenly dinner couldn’t be easier unless you ordered delivery pizza - but this was better.