Alongside gumbo and jambalaya, shrimp étouffée is a stalwart of Cajun and Creole cooking, and a classic New Orleans dish.
Étouffée means “smothered” in French, and in this dish, pink prawns are enrobed in a saucy stew made with a base of the “Cajun holy trinity” – onion, celery, and green bell pepper – and a burnished roux, mixed with chillis and a potent Cajun spice mix, chopped tomatoes and fish stock. That mix is cooked down until thickened and glossy, served with rice, then garnished with handfuls of parsley.
I tend to crave New Orleans-style cooking at this time of year, when the first stirrings of humidity and the late-setting sun evoke long evenings outside, and strains of music on the breeze. I first visited New Orleans in May (which is also when the New Orleans Jazz Festival is held each year), and maybe that’s why I associate this sultry seasonal turn with the southern city.
To pair with shrimp étouffée, you could go for a local favourite – a Ramos gin fizz, a brandy milk punch – but I thought something sparkling captured the mood even better. Fin Wines’ I’m All Ears Pet Nat is prosecco via Australia, still made with the requisite glera grape and aged col fondo (on its lees, in other words). But it also has its own personality, a more leisurely bubble, a taste profile that I hadn’t anticipated. Thanks to the presence of those lees, it smelled almost uncannily like proofing bread dough when the bottle first popped, warm and sweetly yeasty. That toasty, brioche flavour gave way to a light citrus fizz and a fresh herbaceousness.
As my friend Issey and I swirled our glasses and took sips between mouthfuls of étouffée, we both noted how the wine’s surprising depth and richness helped it stand up to the dish, and how that lightly savoury herbal note seemed to carry through to the plate. Together, they make a harmonious match (one that would only be improved with a backdrop of Nola jazz).
Adapted from The Washington Post
For the Cajun seasoning:
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
For the shrimp étouffée:
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 green bell peppers, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
2 yellow or white onions, diced
8 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 jalapeños or green chillis, chopped
8 spring onions, green and white parts, chopped
60g flat-leaf parsley, divided
Fine sea salt, to taste
6 tablespoons flour
85g tablespoons unsalted butter
1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
500ml fish stock
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Farey’s Peckham Smoker, or other vinegar-based Tabasco-style hot sauce of your choice
1 kilo raw peeled king prawns
Steamed rice, to serve
1. In a ramekin or small bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the Cajun seasoning. Set aside.
2. Place a Dutch oven or other large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Once hot but not smoking, add the bell peppers, celery and onions. Cook, stirring frequently, for roughly 5 minutes, or until beginning to soften. Add the garlic, jalapeños, spring onions and half the parsley, and season with 1 teaspoon of fine sea salt. Cook for several minutes more, or until the garlic has lost its raw smell and the onions are translucent.
3. Transfer the cooked vegetables to a bowl and carefully wipe down the pan before returning to the stove to make your roux. Turn the heat to medium-low and add the butter; once melted, add the flour and mix through until no lumps remain. Cook, stirring constantly, for 10-12 minutes, or until the roux has turned a deep golden-brown and smells nutty and toasty.
4. Carefully return the cooked vegetables to the pan, alongside half of your Cajun spice blend, the tin of chopped tomatoes, the fish stock, the Worcestershire sauce and a good shake of your preferred hot sauce. Stir to combine; the mixture should look like a chunky soup at this point (add more stock or water if it’s looking a little dry). Raise the heat to high until the mixture starts to boil, then turn it down to a simmer. Leave to cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick. (This is a good time to start preparing your steamed rice.)
5. While the étouffée cooks, marinate your shrimp. Add the raw shrimp to a bowl and season with 1 teaspoon of salt, as well as the remaining half of the Cajun spice blend. Squeeze over the juice of half a lemon and toss to combine. Leave to marinate for about 20 minutes.
6. After 20-30 minutes, the étouffée should look thickened and cooked-down. Add the shrimp to the pot and mix through so they’re as immersed as possible in the liquid. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are pink and fully cooked-through – be careful not to overcook them, as you want them to still have a nice bite.
7. Just before serving, squeeze over the remaining lemon half and stir through. Taste the étouffée and adjust the seasoning if needed; you can also add more hot sauce or Worcestershire sauce, if preferred.
8. To serve, divide the steamed rice between bowls and top with the étouffée. Garnish with the remaining parsley.
Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer and wine hound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, is available in all good book stores (and at HB&B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen. Don’t miss out on Claire’s wine and food pairings, which go out every month in our Natural Wine Killers subscription box.