Saturday, September 17, 2011

Wild American Shrimp Etouffee

My grandma and your grandma we're sitting by the fire...  So, lately, I've been wanting to do some southern-style cooking and the other day something reminded me of a commercial that was running on TV right after hurricane Katrina.  Jen and I always loved it because the one we had seen locally actually used the words, "All up in your etouffeé."  The video I found online is a bit shorter and says, "Right there in your etoufeé" instead but the point is that it inspired me to do some Cajun cookin and I decided on shrimp etouffeé.  I used a pearled barley in place of the rice, as Jen and I prefer it, but you could use anything you want since etouffeé is just a French word that means "smothered".  Smother whatever you wish!

Since the dish was inspired by wild American shrimpers, I figured it would only be apropos to accompany the dish with some Dead Kennedy's "Holiday in Cambodia".  Why, you might ask?  Because of some connective process by which one has to be aware that the biggest competition for wild American shrimpers is Southeast Asian shrimpers.  And Holiday in Cambodia seemed fitting.  If you read the next recipe post, I'll show you how to get from The Dead Kennedy's to Kevin Bacon in under three moves.  -  justin

Shrimp Etouffee
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 tbsp salt
  • 2 cups pearled barley
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried sweet basil leaves
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup chopped celery
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh pepper (Bell, Anaheim, Poblano) - I used poblano
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 cups seafood stock 
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
  • 2 lbs peeled, de-veined shrimp
  • 1 cup finely chopped scallions
Bring the water and 3 tbsp of salt to a boil over high heat in a saucepan and add the pearled barley.  When it returns to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and let cook for 30 minutes.  No lifting the lid!  After 30 minutes, set aside to cool.  This can be made far in advance if desired.

Thoroughly mix the salt, cayenne, white and black peppers, sweet basil and thyme and set aside.  In a separate bowl combine the onion, celery, and fresh peppers. 

In a large skillet (preferably cast iron), heat the oil over high heat until it just stars to smoke, around 4 minutes or so.  Mix in the flour gradually, stirring with a whisk until the mixture is smooth and continue cooking over high heat, whisking constantly, until the roux is a dark reddish-brown color, about 3-5 minutes.

Remove from heat as soon as you are at the desired color and immediately add the chopped vegetables and 1 tbsp of the seasoning mix.  Stir in with a wooden spoon and continue stirring until the roux has cooled, approximately 5 minutes or so.  The idea is to stop it from cooking or the residual heat will carry it far beyond where you intend, even burning your roux after it's been removed from the heat.

In a 3 quart saucepan bring 2 cups of the seafood stock to a boil over high heat.  Add the roux in increments, making sure to completely dissolve it before adding the next bit.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes while continuing to whisk.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large saucepan or stockpot, melt 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup), over medium heat.  Stir in the shrimp and green onions.  Sauté for a minute or two, stirring constantly.  Add the remaining stick of butter, the last cup of seafood stock, and the stock/roux mixture.  Cook until the butter melts into the sauce, about 5 minutes, constantly shaking the pan in a circular motion over the heat, rather than stirring*.  Add at least 1 tbsp of the remaining seasoning mix and stir it in.  There should be 3 tbsp left and I used 2 for some spicy zip!

Serve over rice, or barley, and enjoy with a tall glass of iced tea or a cold, dark beer.

*A note on shaking the pot as opposed to stirring.  There are scientific reasons as to why this is a better way to combine butter in a sauce over medium heat instead of stirring but I don't know them.  What I do know is that it helps the oils released from the melting butter to better incorporate in the sauce than stirring does.  It works.  It just does.  If your sauce comes out looking oily or separated, add 2 more tbsp of stock or water and shake the pot for a couple minutes and the sauce will blend.

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