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Thanking God for Unanswered Prayers and Rotten Shrimp

May 1, 2012
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This is not a pretty photo, and hopefully I will be able to replace it soon with one that’s not, y’know, taken with my phone, and that maybe does justice to. . .  the best etouffee I have ever made.

The beloved carnivore has been extra sweet lately, even though I myself have been a little . . . difficult.  So I decided that he deserved etouffee, one of his favorite meals.  Yesterday, I came home and spent forty-five minutes chopping vegetables (for a double batch), only to pull out the shrimp and discover it was unusable.

Here’s a tip, o ye who are googling “rotten shrimp” – when they say “you’ll know rotten shrimp when you see/smell it,” they mean it.  Not only was the shrimp starting to turn orange (due to necrosis) and getting spotty (again, not good), but it smelled so foul I got sick to my stomach trying to peel it.  Trust me, you will know shrimp that’s gone bad when you smell it.

The beloved carnivore, in his near-infinite sweetness, took the shrimp back to the grocery store (whose employees were duly apologetic and nice about the whole thing) and purchased new, non-disgusting shrimp while I heated up some leftovers for his dinner and threw some slices of frozen cookie dough in the oven for my dinner.  This morning, I made etouffee with the new shrimp, and I fell in love with this batch of etouffee in a way that reminds me of December 2009, when I met the beloved carnivore.  Maybe I’m exaggerating, but maybe I’m not.  Turns out the rotten shrimp worked out pretty well, in the end.

Now, admittedly, I don’t know if this wrench in my plans is actually the mystical reason I was able to churn out the best batch of etouffee I’ve ever made.  Regardless, I’m thanking God for unanswered prayers because it gives me an excuse to sing Garth Brooks songs to myself.

However, I also did a few things differently that may be responsible for my oh-so-rare total satisfaction with a dish I made.  I apologize to my dear scientist friends who are accustomed to people experimenting and only changing one variable at a time, so that the reason for improvement can be identified.  Anyway, here are some things I did differently:

  • I used about 1 TBSP per batch of ground shrimp, which my grandfather always uses.  I still haven’t seen any in the D.C. area but purchased some while we were visiting family.  It really makes all the difference.  We tasted the seafood flavor so much more clearly this time.  I no longer consider ground shrimp an optional ingredient and will just have to stock up when I visit home or purchase it online.
  • I let the shrimp thaw naturally.  Instead of thawing the shrimp by running cold water over it, I let it thaw in the fridge and then finish thawing on the counter.   I don’t know if this had an effect, but, in the beloved carnivore’s words, the shrimp in this batch “melts in your mouth.”
  • In addition to seasoning the shrimp with Tony Chachere’s, I also used Kitchen Witch creole seasoning.  My Aunt Jo got me some of this seasoning from a New Orleans cookbook store that we visited the day after Thanksgiving.  Em and I used it in some maque choux in December and loved it; I swear we will post that recipe soon!  Especially now that I have even more reason to love the seasoning, which it looks like you can purchase if you call the store.  Or just go to New Orleans and visit them – their store is incredible.
  • I let the etouffee cool completely in the Dutch oven over the course of a few hours instead of splitting up the etouffee among various Rubbermaid containers and putting it in the refrigerator within an hour of the etouffee being done.   I think this may be why the etouffee thickened up so much better this time.

All this writing about my best batch of etouffee ever makes me hungry.  Luckily, we have leftovers.

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