Tomorrow’s Labor day… could be a “day of service” but the president has co-opted a day of remembrance for that one so I get the day off tomorrow.
Most blog posts are about things that have already happened. It’s fun to retell a story about a great day or a wild adventure (though my adventures seem to be less wild these days) but we rarely see the other side of that. The part that isn’t the story the way the story turned out but the way it “should have been”.
My friend Rob and I often get labeled as non-planners. We tend to take a day and flow with it. There’s a general idea about how things should go but if it doesn’t go that way it’ll go some other way and as long as there’s family around it’ll be fun.
The “plan” for tomorrow is a cool one. The day won’t work out the way that I "plan” it but I’m ok with that. In the end the realities of late participants, grumpy kids and/or any number of other distractions will shoot the plan to hell. That’s why we avoid plans for these sorts of things. I do, however, make definites.
Things that will definitely happen tomorrow:
I’ll crawl out of bed early and start getting things ready. Around 10 or so I’ll start working on dinner. We’ll be making Shrimp Etouffee (I prefer crawfish etouffee by a wide margin but we aint got those in North Carolina so shrimp it is) for dinner but we’ll need to start with a shrimp “stock”. Shrimp stock is made from, well, shrimp but from a part of the shrimp that you normally toss away. To start, we’ll peel and devein the shrimp. The shrimp go into the icebox for later.
Rabbit Chasing: (an icebox is southern slang for a refrigerator)
Rabbit Chasing: (The phrase “Rabbit Chasing” originates in deer hunting with dogs. When a dog is trailing a deer it can sometimes get excited and just start trailing anything. Given the abundance of rabbits that’s usually what it he gets sidetracked with. They’ll usually get back on the proper trail after a while so someone that passes a thought and chases it for a while before getting back on topic is said to be “chasing a rabbit”. You do have to get back on topic though, which we’ll do now…)
The shells from the shrimp go into a stock pot and for every 6 lbs of shrimp (in original form) you’ll want add the following (we’re cooking 6lbs of shrimp tomorrow so that’s the values I’m using here. Just adjust the amounts proportionally for whatever you’re doing):
3/4 cup chopped celery
6 garlic cloves
9 bay leaves
1/4 bundle of fresh thyme
3 tsps of peppercorns
1 1/2 cup chopped onions.
3 quartered lemons
Add enough water to the pot to cover the other ingredients by about two inches and put it over a low fire. It should be just hot enough to get a slow, steady, simmer going. Let it cook slowly like this for about an hour and then filter it through a fine colander or cheese cloth. Save the stock, discard the rest.
Once we have our stock the fun part begins.
3/4 Cup tony chachere creole seasoning
3/4 Cup Unsalted Butter (roux)
1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter (seasoning)
(yeah, that’s a cup and a quarter of butter total… yummy. 🙂
3 Cups Onion, Finely Chopped
1 1/2 Cup Celery, Finely Chopped
1 1/2 Cup Bell Pepper, Finely Chopped
1 1/2 Cup Flour
4 1/2-5 Cups Shrimp Stock
1/4 cup Minced Garlic
I bundle of Fresh Thyme
2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
3 tsp Tabasco
1 1/2 Cup Green Onions, sliced
1/2 Cup minced Parsley
6 lb Shrimp
1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter
2 1/4 Cup fresh Tomatoes, diced.
(note: some folks say that putting tomato in etouffee kills it and at that point you’re making a creole stew instead. Those people are big dummies… ignore them)
Salt to taste (note: the Tony’s has a LOT of salt, careful!)
Black pepper to taste.
As soon as you get your shrimp peeled season them with half of the Tony’s seasoning and let them sit in the icebox while you cook the stock.
To start our etouffee we need to kick off with a good roux (pronounced “roo”). A roux, for those that don’t know is very simply a browned flour base, usually fairly well seasoned. It’s a starter for a lot of dishes and has different recipes for each. If you’ve ever made brown gravy you’ve pretty much made a roux. If you haven’t, here’s how:
Over medium heat melt 3/4 C of butter in a large cast iron dutch oven (or skillet, doesn’t matter as long as it’s black iron and big) and then add 3 cups Onions, 1 1/2 cups Bell Pepper and 1 1/2 cups Celery. Stop here and enjoy the smell. That’s the smell that I and everyone else in Louisiana grew up loving. Saute the mixture until the onions become clear or translucent. Stirring constantly add 1 1/2 cup of flour slowly. Continue stirring constantly being careful to scrape the flour off of the sides and bottom to keep it from sticking and burning. You can use a wire wisk for this but I usually use a flat wooden paddle. I find the wooden utensils more forgiving on my iron cookware. Continue stirring until the roux is the color of milk chocolate. It may take a while but the flour will eventually brown properly… just keep stirring! Now, again, these ingredients are for etouffee. Other dishes require different “color” roux’s. The color can vary from light blond to dark chocolate depending on what you’re making. The basics are generally there. For smaller dishes I prefer to use bacon fat instead of butter for the roux but getting enough of that would require about 3 lbs of bacon that you’d end up discarding so… butter. Once your roux is the right color continue stirring constantly while adding enough of the shrimp stock to create a thin paste (about 1/3 cup) and then slowly, slowly add the remainder of the 4 1/2 cups of shrimp stock. If you do this too quickly you’ll get lumps in your broth. NO LUMPS!!! Once you have all of your stock in the pot you can stop stirring and give your arm a rest while this comes to a boil and then reduce it to a low simmer.
Add 2 1/4 cups chopped tomatoes, the bundle of thyme, 2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce, 3 tsp Tabasco to the mix and allow simmer for about half an hour. If things get a little thick you can add a little more shrimp stock as needed but not too much. Etouffee should be about as thick as a very heavy gravy.
Rabbit Chasing: (don’t tell me, please, that you went to New Orleans and had etouffee at “Pat O’s” and that it was much thinner. In fact, don’t tell me anything about the food there. That’s the food that we feed the tourists. It tends to be more bland and more “generally good for you”. The food we actually eat is better. )
After 30 minutes or so add your shrimp, 1 1/2 Cup Green Onions and 1/2 Cup Parsley saving a small amount of onions and parsley for a final garnish. Allow this too cook for 7 to 10 minutes at a medium simmer until your shrimp are cooked through. Stir in another 3/4 cup of unsalted butter, salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle the remaining green onions and parsley over the top as garnish and serve over rice.
That’s the way it “should” go, anyway. That’s the “plan”.
Oh, and by the way, if you can read this and you know where I live then, yes, you ARE invited. If you don’t know where I live, just drop me a mail and I’ll invite you too. 🙂