When Cajun cooks exchange recipes, you often hear, "First, you make a roux." A cooked mixture of oil and flour that provides a perfect avenue for blending flavors, a roux is indispensable in Cajun cooking. Austin food stylist Fran Decoux Gerling, a native of Bridge City, shares this recipe for étouffée, and yes, it starts with a roux.
3/4 c. vegetable oil
3/4 c. flour
1/2 c. chopped white onion or shallots
2/3 c. chopped celery
1/3 c. chopped bell pepper
2 T. finely chopped fresh parsley
3 c. Seafood Stock (see recipe below) or chicken broth or water
1 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. paprika
1/2 c. unsalted butter
2 lbs. peeled crawfish tails or peeled, deveined shrimp
1 c. finely chopped green onion
3-4 c. hot, cooked rice
cayenne pepper sauce (optional)
Heat oil in a heavy skillet over high heat until it is very hot, almost smoking. Add flour, and stir quickly with a long-handled whisk or wooden spoon so that the roux browns evenly. (Use caution, and avoid splashing mixture on your skin; Paul Prudhomme refers to cooked roux as "Cajun napalm.") Lower heat to medium, and stir continuously for about 15 minutes, or until the roux turns a dark caramel color. (Immediately remove any bits of blackened flour; they give the roux a bitter flavor.) Remove skillet from heat, and stir in onion, celery, bell pepper, and parsley. Set aside.
Heat stock in a 6-8 qt. saucepan, and stir in roux mixture with a whisk until well blended. Add cayenne pepper, white pepper, black pepper, salt, and paprika. Simmer mixture for about 10 minutes.
In another skillet, sauté crawfish and green onion in butter for 4-5 minutes; stir into stock mixture. Simmer for about 10 minutes, then taste and adjust seasonings. Serve over rice. Pass cayenne pepper sauce for those who like it extra hot. Yield: 7 cups.
Note: You can buy frozen, peeled crawfish tails year round or live crawfish in season, which varies from one locale to another.
From the January 1970 issue.