Dish of the Week: Étouffée

Sometimes a little smothering is a good thing.
Sometimes a little smothering is a good thing.
Photo by jc.winkler

From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. See the complete list of recipes at the end of this post.

This week, we're sharing a recipe for a Louisiana classic: étouffée (or etouffee)

Étouffée (pronounced eh-too-fay) is a popular Cajun/Creole dish typically made with shellfish -- shrimp, crab, or crawfish -- and served over rice. Most popular is the crawfish version, which originated in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana sometime in the late 1920s/early 1930s. However it wasn't until 1983 -- when a waiter at the Bourbon Street restaurant Galatoire's served crawfish etouffee to his boss -- that the dish became a New Orleans staple.

The French word "étouffée" is derived from the verb "étouffer", meaning to smother, stuff, or stifle. When making the dish, the shellfish are literally smothered in a thick sauce that starts with a buttery, nutty roux and the holy trinity of Cajun cooking: onions, bell peppers, and celery. In Cajun cuisine, the roux is typically light or blond; While in Creole versions, the roux may be cooked longer to deepen the color and flavor -- and sometimes, tomatoes are added in.

Since it's not crawfish season (yet!), this recipe for shrimp ettoufee, from Big Easy chef Emeril Lagasse, is perfectly delicious. It uses Creole spices, tomatoes and of course, shrimp, but feel free to sub in mudbugs when they're big enough.

Shrimp Etouffee

Ingredients yields 10 servings 6 tbsp unsalted butter 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 4 cups chopped onions 2 cups chopped green bell peppers 2 cups chopped celery 2 tbso minced garlic 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes 2 bay leaves 2 tsp salt 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper 2 tsp Essence or Creole seasoning, recipe follows 1 qt shrimp stock 3 lbs medium shrimp (21 to 25 count/lb), peeled and deveined 1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves Steamed white rice, for serving 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion tops, for garnish

For the Essence: Combine 2 1/2 tbsp paprika, 2 tbsp salt, 2 tbsp garlic powder, 1 tbsp black pepper, 1 tbsp onion powder, 1 tbsp cayenne pepper, 1 tbsp dried oregano, and 1 tbsp dried thyme.


Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven set over medium heat. Add the flour and stir continuously to make a roux. Stir the roux over medium heat until it is the color of peanut butter, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the onions, bell peppers, celery, and garlic to the roux, and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes to the pot and season with the bay leaves, salt, cayenne, and 1 tbsp of the Essence seasoning. Cook the tomatoes for 2 to 3 minutes and then whisk in the shrimp stock.

Bring the mixture to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cook the etouffee, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes. Season the shrimp with the remaining tablespoon of Essence and add them to the pot, stirring to evenly distribute. Cook the shrimp for 5 to 7 minutes, or until they are cooked through. Add the chopped parsley to the pot and stir to combine.

Serve immediately over steamed white rice and garnish with sliced green onion tops.

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