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And the Valley Cooks: Shrimp Étouffée

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My first attempt at a cajun staple

I am certainly not the chef that Zach Rau or Billy Gomila are. I’m just starting out and I don’t yet have the proper tools in my piddly little apartment.

But I am learning, and I like to think I’m learning quickly. I got a lot of practice making my own stuff with Blue Apron and I’m really loving it. I live in Nashville these days and I’ve learned to make their fantastic hot chicken. But last night I wanted to bring some Louisiana to Tennessee and took a crack at étouffée for the first time.

I found this recipe on allrecipies.com and it was good, not great. It definitely has the look of etouffee, the colors look right and the texture seemed perfect. But something didn’t quite taste right, I imagine this is what people not from Louisiana thinks how Louisiana food tastes.

Ingredients:

34 teaspoon paprika

14 teaspoon thyme (which I didn’t have handy)

14 teaspoon oregano

14 teaspoon cayenne pepper

14 teaspoon garlic powder

14 teaspoon onion powder

14 teaspoon white pepper

14 teaspoon black pepper

2 pounds of shrimp

12 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

3 tablespoons of butter

13 cup diced onion

13 cup sliced celery

2 tablespoons flour

1 34 cups chicken stock

12 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Hot sauce

14 cup sliced green onions

2 cups rice

So first thing allrecepieces.com had me do was make my spice mix. I didn’t have thyme but I can’t imagine that being a big deal? Or is it? I’m still learning I don’t know either way. I think I got the spice mix perfect aside from not having the thyme, it definitely had the appropriate amount of kick.

I misread the directions and poured all of my mix into the shrimp, it was only supposed to have been a teaspoon of it. So I had to scramble and make a second batch of mix. But honestly I think it worked out better my way, all my shrimp was properly seasoned and I had plenty for the roux.

I don’t have a lot of experience with my cast iron skillet. I’ve used it maybe three times, but never the way the recipe called for: pour the oil and heat until it starts smoking. I briefly thought I was going to burn down my apartment but I am proud to say I didn’t.

After I finished cooking my shrimp I had it sit and mixed in the juice with the chicken stock. What’s the difference between chicken stock and chicken broth? I’m genuinely asking I have no idea.

Anyway, after I mixed my stock I melted my butter, and sautéd the onion, pepper and celery and the second batch of spice mix I made. Like I said, the recipe didn’t call for that, but I think it worked out better.

After my butter melted and my veggies were cooking, they wanted me to mix in the flour and tomatoes. I think this is where my mistake was made, the flour immediately soaked everything up but the tomatoes and stock made it liquidy again. Now the instructions said this just needed five minutes or so to thicken. Five minutes my ass, that needed a good 20 minutes or so.

Anyway, once it got to more of a gravy like substance I mixed in my shrimp, garnished some green onion and had a pretty decent meal. Like I said, something about this didn’t quite come out how I wanted. It certainly looked like étouffée, it smelled like étouffée, and it had the right amount of kick, but it was also weirdly bland? Calling it a pale imitation is way too harsh—it was still really good!—but something just tasted off. But for my first ever attempt, I think I did well.

What do you all think? Do you have a more authentic recipe? I’ll welcome any and all feedback.