Southern Comfort: Crawfish Étouffée (with a recipe for crawfish stock)

Warning: if this post feels a bit disjointed, it’s because I started writing it almost a month ago. The leftovers are long gone, but the thoughts, and the sense of comfort, remain.

I’ve often joked that I’m going to write a book titled How to Burn Out by 30. I have at least three chapters already outlined in my head–the result of my insistence on learning things the hard way, I suppose.

While the number really doesn’t hold significance, I hit the big three zero earlier this year, amidst feelings of burnout and an urgency for change. Friends have called this my third-life crisis; I’m considering it more of a third-life catalyst, though the former is a much more accurate description most days.

I’ve found this to be an intensely reflective period–I’ve looked more and more to the past to understand the present, and in doing so, I’ve reached for long-lost comforts, the most tangible of which are foods from my childhood.

So imagine my excitement when Saveur published The Essential Louisiana several weeks back. After clicking through to the crawfish étouffée recipe, I knew I had to make it. Étouffée is a rich, roux-based Cajun  dish served over rice–it’s far from healthy, but it’s incredibly flavorful. And it’s comfort food.

Crawfish are seasonal, and they’re available in California, but I have yet to find a reliable source. The local fish market orders them this time of year, but from Louisiana–the three pounds I picked up were shipped in live and boiled with a light seasoning. I’ll gladly take what I can get.

Here’s where I need to make a confession: prior to making this, I’d never successfully made a roux. I mean, I’ve burned my fair share, but a good roux takes a lot of time and attention. A dark roux takes stamina and a bit of insanity.

Saveur’s recipe calls for a “dark chocolate” roux, which took a couple tries, but it’s reminiscent of the style of étouffée I grew to love as a kid, so it was worth it. The recipe really needs no improvements; instead of posting a tweaked version, here’s the stock I made from the crawfish shells.

Crawfish Stock

  • 3 pounds of seasoned, boiled crawfish, shelled (save the tails and claw meat for the étouffée!)
  • 2 large white onions, cut in half, then quartered
  • 4-5 stalks celery
  • 6 carrots
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Spread the crawfish shells evenly across two 9″x13″ baking pans; place the onions on top. Toss the carrots and celery in the vegetable oil and spread out in a third baking dish. Roast everything for an hour, then remove the veggies, turn the oven to 450°F and continue toasting the shells for another 20-30 minutes.

Place the shells, veggies, garlic and bay leaves in a large stock pot and cover with plenty of water. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer for an hour and a half.

The seasoning from the crawfish will flavor the water and may add quite a bit of spice, which is just how this Southern boy likes it. The stock will still need salt–mine needed about three tablespoons.

Strain the stock with a cheesecloth, doubled over (so the shells don’t cut through). Save the excess in the fridge for a few days, or freeze for later use; think, shrimp and grits.

I’d post a photo of the final product, but it looks like mirky water. Instead, here’s the étouffée:

2 Responses to “Southern Comfort: Crawfish Étouffée (with a recipe for crawfish stock)”

  1. Matt
    May 17, 2012 at 6:32 pm #

    Any chance this etouffee will make an appearance at the crawfish boil?

    Looks absolutely delicious.

    • james
      May 17, 2012 at 10:18 pm #

      Ha, not very likely, Matt, but if there are leftover crawfish, you can help me peel them and I can make it from that 🙂

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