Ah, the joys of New Orleans! I have to admit that I have an affinity for this cuisine as I was raised on the Mississippi River which connects North to South and runs through Memphis. Growing up, I had the best of the city and the country, a bit like in the movie “A River Runs Through It”. Couple that with a good John Grisham novel and there you have it. Court Square in Memphis was a nice relaxing place in the middle of downtown, close to Symphony Hall and right across from Goldsmiths which Is now Macy’s.
Times change, people grow and I have the memories. When I begin to prepare this dish, I think of Willie Mae, our maid, that raised me in Memphis, Beale Street and a nice laid back afternoon.
I begin by finding the freshest ingredients I can wherever I happen to be. In Houston, I go to Fiesta for the fish and vegetables as they source locally and usually have some good prices. I am a coupon shopper also! Another place I check is the local fish monger on Richmond and of course I go to China Town for different ingredients. That’s what I like about Houston, it’s very diverse here.
Once the shopping is done, I prepare for a day in the kitchen. Oh, I make sure to have fresh coffee, sweet tea, a bottle of wine and me. To me, the kitchen is the fulcrum of the house and should be pleasant for anyone to come in, sit a spell and talk with the Chef!
The roux is what takes the patience and time. It has to be just right especially for this high class Creole dish! My mother would roll over in her grave if it wasn’t. I have the freshest butter I can find, my Mothers cast iron skillet and flour that I have browned in the oven to brown just a bit to take that doughy flavor out. That’s what interesting about flour as it has a nutty flavor when it’s browned like this. I melt my butter on low heat and put the flour in through a fine mesh strainer. Nothing wrong with being meticulous.
Stir, Stir, Stir and don’t let that roux burn cause if it do, then you have to start over!
Once that is done to my liking, I add the other stuff to it and we are about ready for the serving. By the way, that Cajun seasoning is up to you as I make my own and will include that recipe later.
Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra flour, optional
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup chopped celery
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, more if desired
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1/2 cup minced green onions, plus extra for garnish
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
2 to 3 dashes Tabasco Sauce
1 can clam juice
1 can diced tomatoes
2 pounds small or medium shrimp peeled and deveined (recommended: (31/35 size count)
1/2 stick butter
Diced green onions, for garnish
Make the roux, mix butter and flour in a large heavy saucepan over low heat. Whisk flour into the oil to form a paste. Continue cooking over low heat and whisk continuously, until the mixture turns a caramel color and gives off a nutty aroma, about 15 to 20 minutes.
To the roux, add the onion, green pepper, celery, and garlic and cook over low heat about 5 minutes, until the vegetables are limp. Add the black pepper, white pepper, cayenne pepper, Cajun seasoning, green onions, parsley, and hot sauce to taste.
Add 1 can clam juice and the tomatoes with their juice, stir to blend. Add the salt, starting with 1 teaspoon, then add more if needed. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
Add shrimp and stir. It will take about 3 minutes for shrimp to cook, don’t overcook. Remove from heat. Add the butter and stir; the heat from the dish will melt the butter. Transfer the Ettouffee to a tureen, serving bowl, or if you prefer, over rice. Garnish with the green onions.