As lovers of spice, one of our favorite cuisines is New Orleans-based Cajun/Creole cuisine. And if I go to a place calling itself Cajun Kitchen, or Blue Bayou, or some other place trying to lay claim to having good N’Orleans cuisine, there are two things I’ll usually want to try–their version of a “Hot and Spicy Shrimp” (my version here), and a crawfish or shrimp etouffe (prounounced “ay-too-fay”–roughly meaning smothered in French). Is it Cajun or Creole? What’s the difference between etouffee and gumbo and jambalaya?
The sources I read seem to say it is both Cajun and Creole, though the Creole version is likely to be done with a darker roux, more tomatoes, and less spice, than the Cajun version. Etouffee is typically thicker than a gumbo (which is usually served as a soup, rather than as an entree), and generally focuses on one meat (shrimp or crawfish), while gumbo generally has a variety of meats, like shrimp, chicken and andouille. Jambalaya is also usually a multi-meat dish, but cooked with the rice, rather than served on top of it, like etouffee and gumbo.
Crawfish (crayfish, crawdad, etc) etouffee is the most classic way to serve it, but while I used to catch my own crawfish in high school in the canals outside of Bakersfield, shrimp is one of our favorite dishes and is much more accessible in our local grocery stores, so we went with shrimp in this recipe. And though okra is more commonly found in gumbo and jambalaya than in etouffee, we wanted to add a vegetable component to our dish so that we wouldn’t feel like we needed to serve salad or collared greens with it, so we threw it in there, too.
This version is based on a recipe written up by Nola Cuisine, who has many excellent recipes that I intend to further try in the future. We’ve adapted it a bit, adding the okra mentioned above, and boosting the spice level, but the basics aren’t too different.
Without too much immodesty, I can say that this dish is amazingly good, and will warm up your taste buds and your tummy. If you already have some seafood stock on hand, or get it at the store, it really isn’t very complicated. If you use the jalapeno and cayenne, it should be plenty spicy for even the biggest pepperheads, but if you use bell peppers and skip the cayenne, even a child could eat it.
- 2 Tbsp Creole or Cajun seasoning (Zatarain's, Chachere's, or Emeril's), divided
- 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
- ½ Sweet or yellow onion, small chopped or large diced
- 1 Stalk celery, small chopped or large diced
- ¼ Cup bell pepper, or one Anaheim, or a large Jalapeno, diced
- ¼ Cup flour
- 1 Roma or other small tomato, diced
- 1½ Cup shrimp or seafood stock
- 2 Tbsp minced garlic
- 1 Small bundle fresh Thyme
- 2 Tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 Tsp hot sauce (Crystal, Louisiana, Tabasco, etc)
- ½ Cup green onions
- 3 Tbsp minced Italian parsley
- 1 to 1½ Lbs peeled and deveined shrimp (I prefer size 26-30)
- 1 Cup cut okra (I use frozen, but thaw before use)
- Salt, Black Pepper, Cayenne to taste
- Season shrimp with 1 Tbsp of Creole seasoning.
- Melt 3 tbsp butter in large cast iron skillet, pot or dutch oven.
- Add onions, pepper, and celery, saute until translucent.
- Whisk in flour to make a blonde roux, stirring constantly 3-5 minutes.
- Stir in remaining Creole seasoning.
- Add a small amount of shrimp stock, stirring well to form a paste. Add remaining stock gradually, whisking constantly.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Should be consistency of gravy, not soup or paste--add more stock if necessary.
- Add tomatoes, garlic, thyme, Worcestershire, and hot sauce, plus salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste.
- Simmer for 20-30 minutes.
- Add shrimp, okra, green onions, and parsley.
- Simmer for 10 minutes or until shrimp is cooked through.
- Add remaining 1 Tbsp butter, and stir in.
- Adjust seasonings, if necessary (it hasn't been for us).
- Serve over rice.