Monday, January 25, 2010

Etouffee, you say?

I really wasn't sure what etouffee was. Or, rather, how it differed from gumbo. Creole/Cajun food, to me, has many similar ingredients for different dishes. It's a culinary arena I'd like to learn more about. I heard about a cook book titled, Who's Your Mama, are You Catholic and can You Cook a Roux? which, I have to say, is one of the funniest titles of a cook book I've seen. I've never glanced through it. Does anyone know if it's any good?

Creole and cajun are used interchangeably but actually refer to the two different backgrounds in the New Orleans culture. One denotes the upper class, French derived land owner type people and the other the native people and those from Africa who blended their cultures in. In other words, the haves and the have nots. Although, I have to confess I know very little about this and can never remember which one is which.

Etouffee is a little like gumbo, but with a lighter roux and less soupy. It can have almost the same ingredients (onion, bell pepper, chicken, shrimp, andouille, even okra) but is a separate dish. At least, this is what I concluded from my research of recipes. We made it last night and I'm not sure how, but it didn't taste like gumbo. It did taste awesome, and was the perfect meal to eat while cheering the New Orleans Saints on to victory.

I first browned some andouille slices and rendered out some of the fat. I hadn't had a chance to go to my favorite local meat place, so I made do with chicken andouille from Wegman's. It was nice and more cohesive than the fresh made sausage. The flavor was more subtle, but there was still plenty of it. After removing the slices, I added a bit of butter and started to build my roux. I let it get to about a lightly milked coffee color before adding in onion, pepper and garlic. I also generously shook in some cayenne and dropped a palm full of file powder (powdered sassafrass). The only other spice element I added (copious amounts of black pepper don't count) was about a teaspoon of habanero hot sauce.

When the veggies had cooked a bit, I added just enough chicken stock to make a gravy, but not so much as to flood it. This I covered and simmered to let everything soften. Part way through, I threw the sausage back in. When it was just about done, we tossed in some shelled shrimp until just cooked and served over rice.

As a full disclosure, I could probably eat a bowl full of onions cooked in roux. That taste is intoxicating. As a dish, our etouffee was phenomenal. Complex, hearty, warm and comforting. I don't know if it was authentic, but I like to think it was. Darling Husband suggested we might have to make it again for the Super Bowl.


  1. 聰明的人喜歡猜心 雖然每次都猜對了卻失去了自己的心 ..................................................

  2. Thank you for commenting (you all have no idea how much I look forward to that) but I'm afraid I'd need a translation on this one...

  3. Check out for reviews on the cookbook. There are 14 customer reviews, 10 of which give it the top 5 star rating. Even the negatives are basically positive, like the one from a person who is Cajun and says there is nothing new here, just recipes for Cajun and Creole dishes everyone knows how to make back home.

  4. It is easy to see why we get confused between Cajun and Creole:

    The term "Cajun" is a corruption of "Acadian." Acadia was was the French name for what are now the Canadian Maritime Provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia & Prince Edward Island). When Canada became British after the French & Indian War, the Acadians were evicted by the British and many moved to New Orleans. Thus, Cajuns are descendants (blood or cultural) of the original French settlers from Canada.

    The confusion can come because the term "Creole", as used in Louisiana, has had different meanings at different times. Originally, the term was applied only to white colonists of French descent who were born in Louisiana, as opposed immigrants. Later it was expanded to include enslaved Blacks born in Louisiana; the term "French Creole" was used to designate whites. Today Cajun is generally used for whites and Creole to designate persons of mixed French, African, and Native American ancestry.

    I have no idea how the cooking differs, if indeed it does.

  5. Google Translation of the first comment:
    "Tian Tian Ye Ye said:
    Smart people like to guess heart Although each guess they lost their mind"


  6. The verb étouffer in French means to smother. A dish made à l'étouffé is a dish cooked with very little liquid under cover at low heat for a long time. also refered as à l'étuvée. So une étouffée is cooked according to the manner explained above.