Showing posts with label Cajun. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cajun. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cajun Courtbouillon or Shrimp and Fish Stew

Seafood stew or soup with a Louisiana pedigree, Cajun courtbouillon is what my grandmother always made with red fish. Delicious!

If you are an expat like I am, you vacillate between loving your time at home home (where you are from) and wishing it were longer, and appreciating some distance from family politics and dynamics when it’s time to go home (where you live.)  The happy medium here is when family comes to visit.  

First, they are on neutral turf, your turf specifically, so everyone is making nice like visitors should, and secondly, you are so busy doing touristy things and seeing sights and enjoying their company, that time passes quickly and you wish they could stay longer. And that is where I am this week. 

My mother and sister are here and we are riding camels at the pyramids at Giza and shopping at the Khan al Khalili and sipping coffee at Al Mokattam which is the highest point in Cairo and has a fabulous view of the city.  Yesterday we drove to the coast so they could dip their toes in the Red Sea. We have also been cooking deliciousness every night. (I am going to miss them when they are gone!)

One of our favorite meals is a traditional Cajun seafood soup called courtbouillon, pronounced coo-bee-yaw in southern Louisiana, made with a roux.

1/2 cup or 120ml canola or other light oil
1 cup flour
2 medium onions
1 large or 2 small bell peppers (Preferably green but yellow will do in a pinch.  Just don't tell my grandmother!)
4-5 stalks celery
1/4 cup or 60ml tomato paste
2 liters or 8 1/2 cups fish stock or water with stock cubes to create equivalent
Sea salt
Black pepper
Good handful of green onion tops
Good handful of flat-leaf parsley
3/4 lb or 350g shrimp, peeled and cleaned
1 1/3 lbs or 600g grouper or other white fish fillets
Cooked white rice or fresh baguette to serve.

Peel and finely chop your onions, bell peppers and celery.  A food processor can be used but be sure just to pulse the vegetables and don’t puree them.  Set aside.

Put your oil and flour into a heavy bottomed pot and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon or other heat-resistant stirring implement, like a silicone spatula.

Once all the flour lumps have been dissolved, turn the fire on medium and cook, stirring frequently at first and then constantly as the roux begins to dark.

  Cook and stir until your roux is about the color of an old copper penny.

Add in the chopped vegetable all at once and stir well to mix.  The mixture will be quite stiff.

Cook the vegetables for about five minutes, stirring all the time, and then add in the tomato paste.

Stir to incorporate the tomato paste and then add in the fish stock or water and stock cubes.  Stir or whisk to combine.

Bring to the boil and then simmer, covered, for at least one hour or until you are about 20 minutes from serving your courtbouillon.  Check the level periodically, and add more water if it is getting too thick for your liking.  You do want it to reduce but some people prefer courtbouillon thinner like soup or very thick like stew.  In our family we make it like a thick soup.

Meanwhile cut your fish into good-sized pieces and season with salt, black pepper and cayenne.  If your shrimp are not peeled and cleaned yet, do that now and season them with the same.  Refrigerate until needed.

Chop your onion tops and parsley.   Set aside.

Plant the white onion bottoms in some soil in your garden.  They will sprout all over again.  

When you are about 20 minutes from serving, turn up the heat on your courtbouillon until it is gently boiling again and slip the fish pieces and the shrimp into the pot.  Turn the heat down right away and stir ever so gently to distribute the fish and shrimp around the pot.  You do not want to the fish to break all apart.

Stir in the chopped parsley and green onion tops, reserving just a little for garnishing each bowl.

Check the seasoning and add more salt and cayenne as needed.  Serve over white rice, with French bread on the side for dipping.  We also add extra hot sauce to each bowl at the table.


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.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Maque Choux – Spicy Cajun Corn

 In the hotel suite in Cairo, I have a two-burner stove.  With confidence, I went out and bought two cooking vessels:  a frying pan and a small pot.  What you can’t cook in those two, really doesn’t need cooking, right?  Funny thing is, they can’t sit on the stove together.   Yeah, I know I have a strange sense of humor but when I got back from Carrefour and realized that I had overestimated my space allotment, it made me laugh.  Oh, well, it gets more and more like camping.  And I enjoy a challenge. 

Dinner was simple, spaghetti Bolognaise, so I am not going to bore you with that recipe.  Instead, here are instructions for another Louisiana specialty that Thanksgiving or Christmas at our house would not be Thanksgiving or Christmas without.  While the ham was baking the other day, this was one of the two other dishes I made to bring along to the Christmas party.

My grandmothers made maque choux from fresh sweet corn on the cob, first cutting the niblets off and then scraping the cob to get the “milk” out.  Many places I have lived over the years didn’t have sweet corn, just what we would call cows’ corn – hard and indigestible for humans, used only as feed for cattle – so I learned that frozen corn is an excellent substitute.  And when your fresh cobs are not so juicy, the frozen is actually closer what my grandmothers would have used.

About 3 lbs or 1.350kg frozen sweet corn 
1 medium or two small green bell peppers or capsicums
2 medium onions
3 medium red ripe tomatoes
7 oz or 200g butter
Olive oil
1/2 cup or 120ml whole milk
Sea salt

Halve the tomatoes and discard the seeds.  Chop the tomatoes, onions and bell peppers.

Sautee the vegetables in the butter with just a glug of olive oil added.   

When the onions are translucent, add in the corn.  

Add the milk and then the sea salt and cayenne to taste.  

Cook over a slow fire until the corn is soft and the other vegetables are almost a memory.  My mom likes the corn still crunchy so, if you agree with her, about 10-15 minutes will probably do.  I cooked this about 30-45 minutes because I wanted it soft and I wanted it to dry out just a bit.  

 This is meant to be a spicy dish so don't be shy with the cayenne!