Most people have fond memories of their grandmothers’ cooking, and I do too. But I’m one of the lucky ones who also has a grandfather that cooks. Every time my mom and I would visit him and my grandmother when I was growing up, he’d get up early the morning we were leaving and make a batch of pralines for us to take home. They rarely made it all the way home, since it was a six hour drive and pralines are one of my absolute favorite things in the entire world.
My grandfather is Cajun, and he has an endless wealth of knowlege about Cajun cooking – everything from gumbo to jambalaya to etouffee. My mom taught me how to make gumbo and jambalaya a long time ago, but as much as I love our little blog I will not be sharing those family recipes any time soon – you’ve got to at least take me out to dinner and buy me flowers if you want those recipes, and I don’t know how the beloved carnivore would feel about you trying to woo me. Anyway, at some point in the past few years, my grandfather taught me how to make etouffee. He uses Tony Chachere’s recipe as a base, but he (and now I) edit it a good bit. There’s almost more of my handwritten notes in the cookbook than actual, printed text.
Etouffee is not a 30-minute dinner. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to make, especially if you’re cleaning the shrimp yourself. But it is 100% worth it.
When we made this batch of etouffee for our recent cooking extravaganza, Emily and I were pretty serious about using great ingredients, including her paprika from Hungary and authentic Gulf Coast shrimp that we ordered from Cajungrocer.com. Cajun cooking is a lot like Italian cooking that way – it’s simple (if time-consuming), and the quality is all about the ingredients. I recommend you make sure to use good quality shrimp for this – I’ve actually had great success with shrimp I bought at the grocery store (as long as it was not colorless, flavorless, cheap-y shrimp), but neither of us have cars so we went all out and ordered some.
Another note (from my grandfather) – this recipe is based on a recipe for crawfish etouffee. Shrimp has a lot more water than crawfish does, so you have two options here. You can either reduce the liquid (to 1 to 1 1/2 cups) or you can bump up the thickener by increasing the cornstarch. I add more cornstarch and add extras of all the vegetables, because I like for the etouffee to last longer. But my grandfather reduces the liquid, and he’s the real expert, so it’s up to you.
My grandfather also suggests adding in ground shrimp and shrimp bouillon when you’re adding the Worcestshire sauce and oyster sauce, but I haven’t found any up here in the Northeast. If you can find some, by all means, use it. And tell me where you found it.
One last note – if you don’t have Tony Chachere’s original Creole seasoning, buy some. If you can’t find it, season the shrimp with salt, red pepper, garlic powder, and a little paprika and black pepper.
Shrimp Etouffee (serves 4 to 6 people)
Adapted from Tony Chachere’s Cajun Country Cookbook, with a great deal of help from my grandfather
- 1 to 1 1/2 lbs shrimp (as small as you can get), peeled and de-veined
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 to 2 cups of shrimp stock, chicken stock, or vegetable stock (see note on cornstarch and liquid above)
- 1 TBSP paprika
- Tony Chachere’s original Creole seasoning (see note above)
- 2-3 TBSP cornstarch (see note on cornstarch and liquid above)
- 1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
- 1 TBSP Oyster sauce
- 1 medium onion
- 1 green bell pepper
- 2-3 stalks of celery
- 2 large cloves of garlic
- Half of a bunch of green onions
Note: All our pictures are from a double-batch. Your etouffee won’t look as voluminous if you only make a single-batch.
Peel and clean your shrimp – this may take a while, especially if you’re using small shrimp, which you should. Season with a generous helping of Tony Chachere’s original seasoning (or the mix of spices suggested above). A very generous helping. Set aside.
See what I mean? Generous helping. I had a paper cut on my hand, which I had forgotten about until my hand was coated in peppery seasoning.
Chop (in a medium dice) the onions, celery, green pepper, green onions, and set aside. Note that you don’t add the green onions at the same time as the other vegetables, so don’t mix these in with the other vegetables just yet.
Mince or finely dice the garlic and set aside.
Melt butter in a large stockpot or enameled Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add paprika and stir until it’s all blended. Add in the shrimp, stir well, and sautee for about five minutes, or until they start to get all curly.
If you’ve got a gas stove, turn off the burner. If you’ve got an electric stove, remove the pot from the burner while you do this next step. Remove the shrimp from the pot and place the shrimp in a large bowl, trying to leave as much of the liquid in the pot as possible. Here’s my trick – I use tongs to get them out of the pot; I grab some shrimp with the tongs and then turn the tongs like so, letting liquid drain off before I transfer the shrimp to the bowl.
Now your pot should be empty, but with a lot of yummy paprika and melted butter in the bottom. If you turned the heat off, turn it back on to medium-high. Throw in the onions, green pepper, celery, and garlic. Stir well and sautee for 10-12 minutes, until the vegetables are nice and soft and well-coated with the paprika and butter.
While the vegetables are sauteeing, heat the stock in the microwave for about 1 to 2 minutes (however long it takes to get the stock hot).
After the vegetables have sauteed long enough, add the shrimp back into the pot, leaving as little liquid in the bowl as possible. Pour in the heated stock, the oyster sauce, the Worcestshire sauce, and 1/2 of the green onions.
Bring to a low boil and then turn the heat down to low (but high enough to simmer the etouffee). Put the lid on the pot, but don’t cover it completely (just 90% of the way).
Simmer for 40 minutes. During the simmering phase, your etoufee will look pretty thin. Don’t worry about it. After the 40 minutes are up, taste the etouffee and add more salt, pepper, or Tony Chachere’s if needed.
Heat about 1/2 cup of water in the microwave. Add in the cornstarch tablespoon by tablespoon (2 if you used less stock, 3 if you used more stock), stirring after each addition. It is important that this mixture be warm when you add it to the etouffee, or your leftover etouffee will separate in the fridge (which is a fixable problem but is far from ideal).
Bring the heat back up to medium-high, and add the cornstarch and hot water mixture to the etouffee gradually, stirring well after each addition. Once the etouffee is starting to boil and has thickened well, it’s done. Turn off the heat, and add the rest of the green onions.
Serve the etouffee over warm rice. Like most Cajun dishes, this gets spicier and more full-bodied after a day or two in the fridge.