Saturday, April 12, 2008

Heart-Healthy Shrimp Étouffée

Does it feel to you like the world, and consequently our lives, are completely out of control? Some days seem that way to me. Maybe that’s why I seek temporary refuge in the kitchen. I do a lot of the cooking in our house. My mother used to say that she thought I loved cooking because I so like to eat. These days, it’s more than that. In the kitchen, surrounded by foods, herbs, and spices, I can exercise some control over my life in the creation of a new recipe. Sometimes it works, but sometimes, like the issues that face us in the larger world, more creativity is required.

This recipe began with reading about a Shrimp and Okra Étouffée in the
New American Heart Association Cookbook in a heart health magazine in the Heart Center office. I had never made étouffée before and this seemed like a heart-friendly way to learn. I tore the recipe out of the magazine and brought it home. I know, I deprived the next reader from the joy of trying the recipe.

I tried it. It was too bland, not just in the amount of pepper but without the spark of a unique étouffée taste, as if I would know what that was. It just wasn’t right, and I don’t think the problem was in the Creole seasoning that I made up from other recipes. But I thought I knew what was lacking. From “
Nola Cuisine,” which is an online site purportedly by Cajun chef, I read about the importance of using “shrimp stock,” instead of the chicken stock called for in the original recipe. How could I not trust one that spoke with such affection about this dish?
The smell of Etouffee, be it Crawfish or Shrimp, is one of the most heavenly aromas that I know. The word Etouffee (Ay-2-FAY) translates roughly to smothered , stewed, or braised. To me it simply translates to happy taste buds.
I was tempted to take Nola’s recipe, but the butter made it not so “heart-healthy.” (You can find her recipe at the link above.) I took several things from her recipe and into incorporated them in the heart-healthy version. First, I made and used Nola’s shrimp stock instead of chicken broth. To my recipe I added tomatoes, peppercorns, and Worchester sauce, and I doubled the amount of Creole seasoning I used before, as seems indicated in other étouffée recipes. It worked! The other eaters had seconds. It tasted like a dish I would be proud to serve to company.

Here, in three steps, is my version of a heart-healthy shrimp and okra étouffée.

[This I conflated from several different recipes.]

Ingredients: (For a lesser amount, use “teaspoons” instead of “tablespoons.” You only need half a tablespoon for this recipe.)

2-1/2 tablespoons paprika

2 tablespoons salt

2 tablespoons garlic powder

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon onion powder

1/4 tablespoon cayenne (that’s one quarter of what is often called for, and it’s enough for us)

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon dried sweet basil

1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all the ingredients thoroughly in a bowl. Store in an airtight container away from light. Use within three months. Makes about 2/3 cup.

Shrimp Stock(from Nola’s recipe)

The Shells and tails from 1 lb. of Shrimp

1/2 Cup chopped Onion

1/4 Cup chopped Celery

2 Garlic Cloves

1 Teaspoon Lemon Pepper

2 Fresh Bay Leaves

3 Sprigs Fresh Thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)

1 tsp. Black Peppercorns


1. I brought 2 cups of water to a boil with the lemon pepper, then added the shrimp for 2-3 minutes until it turned pink. I removed the shrimp and put them in a pan of ice to cool.

2. While the shrimp cooled, I added the rest of the ingredients and let them heat up on a Low setting. I peeled the shrimp and removed the tails, and added them to the pot. I put the shrimp in the refrigerator. I brought the stock almost to a boil on Medium, and then turned it down to a low simmer for 45 minutes. Then, I strained the stock, keeping only the liquid. I used 2 cups in the étouffée. Viva la difference!


1 ½ cups uncooked brown rice

¼ cup all-purpose flower

1 teaspoon canola or corn oil

1 medium sweet pepper, finely chopped

1 medium onion, finely chopped

¾ cup chopped tomatoes

2 cups fresh or frozen sliced okra

2 cups of home-made shrimp stock (see recipe above)

2 teaspoons Creole seasoning blend (see my recipe above)

1 tablespoon Worchester sauce

1 pound medium raw shrimp (prepared earlier when I made the stock)

1. Prepare the brown rice; start it 40-50 minutes before you want to eat.

2. In a large nonstick skillet, cook the flower over medium heat 8-10 minutes, or until browned, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a medium bowl. Let cool for 5 minutes.

3. Wipe the skillet clean with paper towels. Heat the skillet over medium heat. Pour the oil into the skillet and swirl to coat the bottom. Cook the bell pepper, onion, and tomatoes for 2 to 3 minutes, or until tender-crisp.

4. Stir in the okra. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes (4 to 5 minutes if frozen), or until the okra is tender crisp.

5. Whisk the shrimp stock into the flour (there may be a few lumps) and add the Creole seasoning to the stock mixture. Pour into the vegetable mixture. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the flavors have blended.

6. Stir in the shrimp. Simmer, covered, for 2 to 3 minutes or until the are warmed..

7. To serve, spoon the rice into each bowl. Ladle the shrimp mixture over each serving.
I served this with celery sticks. Enjoy!

If you try the recipe, I’d like to know how it worked for you, or what adjustments you made. If time in the kitchen creating is an outlet for you, let me know.

- Milo


Anonymous said...

I too like cooking but during the week there is just not enough time to really enjoy the kitchen duty. My father was a baker by profession and I grew up working in a "from scratch" bakery which is a mixed blessing. The foods we eat in this day and age just do not compare to that which I gew up with (again time being a major factor). My mother was the cook in the family restaurant and that complicates things as she was a master at her trade. The various soups she concocted along with fresh bread from my fathers ovens were such a heart warming treat on cold winter days. I will make sure and find some time to try your recipe as it sounds delicious!


Milo Thornberry said...

What a cooking heritage you have! I could almost smell the bread from the bakery and the soups your mother made.

Being able to enjoy cooking is also a matter of having the time to do it. When I had a "day job" it was satisfying to get a meal on the table, but in retirement I love having the time to plan and create new things.