Étouffée or etouffee (pronounced ay-TOO-fay) is a dish found in both Cajun and Creole cuisine typically served with shellfish over rice. In French, the word étouffée literally means “smothered,” which is a good way to describe our recipe this month. Although other forms of seafood may be used, a true étouffée should be made with crawfish. While gumbo is made with a dark roux, étouffée is made from a lighter, thicker and spicier roux.
Sometime during the 1950s crawfish étouffée was introduced to diners in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. My research found that there are many variations of étouffée. It can be made with any shellfish such as crab or shrimp; or even fish, think crappie.
Depending on who is making it and where it is being made it is flavored with either Creole or Cajun seasonings. It is important to note that although Creole and Cajun cuisines are distinct there are many similarities. The Creole version is made with a blonde or brown roux and sometime tomatoes are added.
Roux (pronounced ru) is a substance created by cooking wheat flour and fat (traditionally butter). It is the thickening agent. In Cajun cuisine, roux is made with bacon fat or oil instead of butter, which tends to burn. Oil lends much richness of flavor and dark brown color, however it has less thickening power. I usually prefer bacon fat but its flavor can overshadow the delicate taste of crappie.
Creole, a blond roux, is cooked, stirring constantly, for approximately 20 minutes to remove the raw flavor of the flour and to add a slightly nutty flavor, while a brown roux is cooked longer (30 to 35 minutes) to deepen the color and flavor.
Of the many recipe variations, I’ve selected two recipes; one that is simple and one that’s a little more complex. You’ll notice the ingredients vary. So see which ingredients titillate your tastes buds, cook it and make the other one later.
Crappie Étouffée #1
1 cup butter
2 cup onion, chopped
2 cup celery, chopped
1 cup bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon flour
Salt to taste
Red pepper to taste
Black pepper to taste
Garlic powder to taste
Dash of paprika for flavor and color
1 cup green onion tops, chopped
Dash of soy sauce
2 pounds crappie fillets
Rice (follow directions for six to eight servings)
Sauce: Melt butter in skillet at medium heat. Add onion, celery, bell pepper; simmer until tender. Add flour, salt, red pepper, black pepper, garlic powder and paprika, then stir until blended. Add green onion tops and soy sauce, then stir until onion tops are slightly softened.
Lay fillets in pan. Cover with sauce. Simmer until fish flakes, about 10 minutes.
Serve over fluffy cooked rice.
Crappie Étouffée #2
1 cup enriched white rice
2 cups water
4 tablespoons brown roux
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 cups beef broth
1 pound tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons salt
2 pounds crappie fillets, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Red pepper flakes to taste
Combine rice and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until done.
In a large saucepan, warm roux over medium heat. Stir in onion, green bell pepper, and garlic; cook for about 5 minutes, or until soft. Stir in broth and tomatoes. Season with lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaf, black pepper, thyme, and salt. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.
Stir in crappie and parsley. Simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Stir in 2 cups cooked white rice, and season with red pepper flakes.