Louisiana is known for its incredibly rich culinary scene. “Cajun” is derived from the French “les Cadiens” or “les Acadiens,” a term used for the French exiles who landed in eastern Canada and Maine in the early 1700s. Eventually, during French occupation of territory in the United States, these settlers found themselves in the southern Louisiana swamps. Since their migration to this flat marshland, this friendly, hardworking people made a lasting and deep-seeded impression on the land, particularly the local cuisine.
More recently, this culture has become a national sensation through the hit series Swamp People on the History Channel. While most viewers may need subtitles to understand the Cajun-French drawl of Troy Landry, I find myself feeling right at home. My grandparents, on both my mother and father’s side, settled their families in Mobile, AL after moving from The Boot. My father’s mother grew up in Lockport, a small town just south of The Big Easy, where her husband, my grandfather, was born and raised. Additionally, my maternal grandmother calls Lafayette, LA her home, and attended ULL, where she met her husband.
Growing up with such a rich Louisiana background, childhood trips to visit extended family were a regular occurrence after watching our favorite team, the LSU Tigers, play in Death Valley. We were nurtured by crawfish boils in the spring, the sound of zydeco in the fall, and slurping Christmas-time seafood gumbo every winter. There has never been a shortage of Tony Chachere’s in the house. Not once. I’m not even sure what food tastes like with plain salt and pepper.
Of the many dishes we were accustomed to, Crawfish Étoufée stood out as my all-time favorite. For those who are unaware of this dish, it’s basically a better version of crab bisque served over rice. Traditionally, it is consumed with a healthy amount of beer. My wife also grew up eating this classic. While we were dating, she never failed to remind me that Tony’s, a seafood distributor in Baton Rouge, makes the best étoufée she has ever tasted. I never argued that fact. She’s from Denham Springs, therefore she’s the more decorated expert.
I had always been intimidated by Cajun food. Our great grandmother and grandparents were known for their Cajun recipes. It is widely known that the true chefs in this niche never measure a single ingredient. They know what to add by instinct. The character and richness seemed like an impossible feat for the average Alabama-raised amateur. It wasn’t until recently that I tried my hand at this dish. To my delight, I was able to combine multiple recipes and flavors to make it my own. Through trial and error, I think I have fine-tuned this recipe to near perfection. My wife now agrees that I have beaten the fabled Tony, whoever he is. Be warned, this isn’t a dish you should eat regularly. Just read the first ingredient. But, on a special occasion, I hope you find the time to make this delicious dish and enjoy it with family and friends.
Comment below with your experience!
Crawfish and Andouille Étouffée
Prep time: 30 minutes / Cook time: 40 minutes / Serves: 3-4 people
1 stick of salted butter
1 yellow onion, diced
1 habañero or spicy pepper, de-seeded and finely chopped (add a dash of chipotle seasoning if you like it spicy)
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic
2-3 tbsp of flour
1 lb of crawfish tails, Important: separate the yellow fat into a bowl (if using a frozen bag, save that yellow liquid, its the fat)
Tony Chachere’s Seasoning
Chef Preudhomme’s Redfish Magic seasoning (can substitute 1/2 tsp of thyme, 1/2 tsp oregano, 1/2 tsp of basil)
½ lb of smoked sausage (preferabley Conecuh or Andouille), diced and quartered
¼ cup of parsley for garnish (optional)
¼ cup of chopped green onion
1 cup of water
Preferred Cookware: Well-seasoned Cast Iron
Don’t forget to cook rice!
Directions: Melt butter in large pan. Sauté onion, pepper, bell pepper, and garlic with all of the yellow crawfish fat in butter until softened and translucent (takes 5-7 minutes over medium heat). Add flour and stir vigorously for 2-3 minutes or until mixture is bronze-tan. Once desired color is reached, add crawfish, sausage, seasonings, and a cup of water. Mix well and reduce on low heat for 10-15 minutes. While this reduces, start cooking the rice you prefer. Once the mixture is thickened slightly, remove from heat. Your house should smell incredible at this point. Add parsley and green onion for garnish. Serve over rice and add salt an pepper to taste if needed. Enjoy! This recipe gets better over time in the frig, and will freeze well if you have too many leftovers.