Several years ago, Mike and I went to the Fearrington House for a cooking class. We arrived in the afternoon in time for tea and then enjoyed a wonderful dinner. The next morning we met with several others in the kitchen to begin an all day cooking lesson. This was one of the best cooking classes I’ve been to as I learned how to make a roux along with many other things and it gave me confidence to try complicated dishes. The chef has changed so I don’t know how they are done now, but knowing the high standards of the Fearrington House, I’m sure they are still great. One of the dishes we learned to cook was crawfish étoufée. I have made it many times over the years and it’s one of Mikes’ favorites. It takes some effort so I don’t make it that often. However, he requested it for his birthday so I thought I would share the recipe along with some tips that I learned.
I’ll start with a warning, this dish requires some confidence in the kitchen. However, if you are a novice cook, you can still master this if you just plan in advance. Mise en place is needed for this. I love this term which means that everything is chopped and ready before you begin.
You will also need to be patient. The longer you cook the flour the darker the sauce will be which means it will have more flavor. You can save a lot of time if you first brown the flour in the oven before you even start. I took a picture, but it’s hard to tell how brown it is. You don’t want to burn the flour but the browner you can get it the less time you will spend at the stove stirring.
To start the roux you heat the butter and then gradually add flour stirring constantly until it turns a dark brown. Then add half of the seasoning and tomato paste. You can make this spicier by adding more cayenne. Another trick anytime you are making a roux is to heat the chicken broth in the microwave so that it’s warm when added. You need to slowly add this, letting it thicken after each addition before adding more. I would estimate that the roux will take about 30 minutes. Once you start adding the broth you can go ahead and sauté the vegetables, half at a time. Add the rest of the seasoning to the last half of the vegetables. Once your sauce has thickened, add your vegetables and crawfish to the roux and let it cook just long enough to heat up the crawfish.
Some of the ingredients may be hard to find. I use frozen crawfish as there is no other choice here. What’s strange is that the specialty groceries don’t carry this but Harris Teeter does. Don’t forget to rinse them pretty thoroughly. Next you need to find filé powder. It is an essential ingredient for this dish and depending on where you live you may have trouble. There’s always Amazon.
This makes a lot so it’s nice if you have a crowd coming. What I try to do in those situations is make the roux ahead of time. Then a few minutes before dinner, heat the roux, sauté the vegetables and add the crawfish. That way you are not standing at the stove stirring instead of enjoying your guests.
- Yield: 6 1x
- ¾ cup flour
- ¾ cup butter
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1½ cups onion, diced
- 1 cup green pepper, dice
- 3 tablespoons garlic minced
- 4 cups chicken stock, hot
- 2 lb. crawfish tails, rinse and pat dry
- 1 cup green oinion
- ½ cup parsley
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon file powder
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon basil, dried
- 1 teaspoon thyme, dried
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon cayenne
- Heat flour in oven on baking sheet at 350º for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. It should be light brown. This can be done days in advance.
- Combine all spices and separate into two small bowls. Set out all remaining ingredients so they are ready to add. Rinse crawfish tails well and pat dry.
- Melt 1/2 cup of butter in a cast iron skillet, slowly add flour and 1/2 of the spice mixture and cook until dark brown, add tomato paste. Add warm stock slowly, stirring constantly until it has thickened.
- Melt remaining 1/4 cup butter in a separate skillet and saute vegetables, 1/2 at a time. Add the remaining spices to the second half of the vegetables. Add all of the sautéed vegetables and crawfish tails to the finished roux and cook for 1 minute. Garnish with green onion , parsley and lemon juice.
- Serve right away over rice. You can make the roux in advance and then warm it while you are sautéing the vegetables.
- Cooking class at The Fearrington House