Saturday, June 16, 2012

Almost Mo's Crawfish Étouffée

Spicy rich crawfish étouffée, almost exactly as my Cajun grandmother used to make it. The perfect dish for Sunday Supper or a Mardi Gras party!

Hear that spinning noise? Wait, what? You don’t hear it. It’s so loud on my end and I know what it is. It’s my grandmother, in her grave, spinning. If you’ve read my About Me, you know I am originally from Southern Louisiana, home of crawfish and gumbo and Tabasco pepper sauce. In fact, many family members worked for Tabasco on Avery Island when I was growing up. We never used store-bought sauce because, if you washed and saved and brought your bottles back to my grandmother, she got them filled up with the best of the best, what we called bottom of the barrel. Scooped from the bottom of the barrels used to age the Tabasco, that sauce was the nectar of the gods.

As the relatives who worked on Avery Island grew older and retired, my grandfather, who always had a huge kitchen garden, started growing his own peppers from seeds he had been given by those same relatives. And my grandmother started making and bottling her own sauce from the Tabasco peppers. To this day, you will not find a bottle of store-bought Tabasco sauce in our houses. It’s too full of vinegar with too little body. I prefer to make my own as well, although I can’t get the Tabasco peppers anymore and have to use habaneros. But I digress.

Back to my grandmother and her spinning. Along with the disdain for store-bought Tabasco, I was brought up with a healthy dose of repugnance for any crawfish not caught wild in the Atchafalaya Basin. Those were the years of a short crawfish season just in the Springtime and when it was over, it was over, till the following year. Nowadays, with crawfish farming and crawfish imports from *gasp* China (here the spinning noise increases in volume) we can eat crawfish étouffée year round.

With apologies to my grandmother, we love crawfish étouffée and, in as much as I am causing her post-death exercise by using frozen Chinese crawfish, I try to make up for it by making it just as she would have. Or as close as I can get with the foreign interlopers which don’t have as much of the lovely orange fat as our locally caught specimens.

1/2 cup or 65g flour
1/2 cup or 120ml canola oil
2 medium onions
1 bunch of green onions
1 large green bell pepper or capsicum
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup or 115g butter
4 packs frozen crawfish (Each pack is 12 oz. I buy Boudreaux’s, which, despite its name, is indeed from China.)

(If you can't get crawfish, this can also be made with shrimp or prawns. It won't be the same but it will still be delicious.)

Make a roux by mixing the flour and canola oil in a heavy pan. Cook over a medium heat, stirring frequently, until it turns a lovely caramel color. For full step by step instructions, check out this link: How to make roux. 

Meanwhile chop your onions, green onions and bell pepper.

When the roux is browned enough, tip in the vegetables and cook, covered, until the vegetables are very soft – about 10-12 minutes.

Add the tablespoon of tomato paste for color and the butter to replace the missing fat content and cook for a bit longer, perhaps another 10 minutes. (In the old days, the tomato paste and butter were not necessary as the crawfish came with a lot of the natural orange fat which, I have been told, is not allowed in packing any more. This fat gave the étouffée the lovely color without anything else added.)

Add in the crawfish and cook for another 10 minutes, covered. Season to taste with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and cayenne.

Serve over white rice in the Tabasco gumbo bowls that your grandmother left you. If you are so blessed.

One of my most precious possessions - a set of Tabasco gumbo bowls.


  1. Not only do I love crawfish ettouffee, but I love your writing. You bring everything to life. And, for those that are not so fortunate to know Stacy personally, she speaks just as she writes! Thank you for sharing all of your memories with your recipes.

  2. You, my dear friend, are one of the reasons I miss living in the US. There are no friends so good as old friends. Praying daily for your quick recovery and a future life without pain. I love you - with extra chocolate chips. :)


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