Et Tu, Etouffee?

27 August 2008

"Zis dish iz not pretentious enough for a French name.  Alzo, zere iz not nerely enough butt-aire"

"Zis dish iz not nearly pretenzious enough for a Fransche name!"

I’ve never been to New Orleans before, but the people on my T.V. tell me that it’s a magical land of booze, jazz, and boobies-on-demand.  Recently devastated by George W. Bush’s indifference to black people, and the hurricane it brought about, New Orleans has since made a complete recovery.  According to every show on ESPN during the 2006 NFL season, this recovery was due solely to the fact that the Saints made an improbable run all the way to the NFC championship game, after having gone only 3-13 the previous season (not many people know this but, according to sources I just made up, had they managed to win the Super Bowl, New Orleans would have replaced Washington, D.C., as our nation’s capital, and Disney would have been contractually obligated to make no less than fourteen moves about their “triumphant victory over adversity, which united not just a team and a city, but an entire nation.”)  Unfortunately, Reggie Bush is more interested in scoring with the big easy than he is in scoring touchdowns for The Big Easy, and the Saints suck again.  Oh, well, why worry about that when there’s etouffee to cook?

"And, lo, the lord fixedeth the home and madeth the lame walk, for the conversion on fourth and goal was good."

"And, lo, the Lord rebuildeth the homes and madeth the lame walk, for the conversion on fourth and six was good."

As the life-size poster of him on the wall above my bed can attest, Harry Connick, Jr., is the first thing many people think of when they think of New Orleans (after Mardi Gras, the Mannings, and dumb legal systems, of course.)  Well, these people must hate food, because it is her native dishes which, in my mind, make New Orleans such a special place.  From crawfish to boudin to even more crawfish, creole cuisine is as delicious as I am drunk right now.  Many will tell you that gumbo is the best of the dishes; others, jambalaya (which I spelled correctly on the first try, thankyouverymuch.)  What many people don’t know, however, is that after exhaustive research consisting of me thinking about it for roughly thirty seconds, I have come to the controversial, yet accurate, conclusion that these dishes are precisely the same.  As a registered scientist and internet-trained philatelist, I was able to observe that both dishes consist of meat and broth-like stuff and rice and maybe some other stuff, too.  Now, if you’re a boring person who likes to eat boring, interchangeable, ubiquitous dishes like these, you can go ahead and cook your ersatz fare.  People like Avril Lavigne and myself, however, who love to rage against the machine, would much prefer to cook etouffee, the dark horse of Cajun cooking, instead.  What makes etouffee different, you ask?  The fact that I’ve made etouffee before, and not the other two, of course (See?  Completely different!)  Etouffee utilizes a “roux*” to achieve a thick, rich consistency.  The roux takes a long time to cook, and is very delicate, so it’s important that you drink a shit-load of booze while you’re tending to it.  That’s why etouffee is so awesome.  That’s also why I cook etouffee every night. 

Avril, getting ready to cook the shit out of something.  The secret ingredient is angst.

Avril, getting ready to cook the shit out of something. Whatever it is, the main ingredients will be angst and trying too hard.


Bell pepper
Chicken stock
Sausage, seafood, or some combo thereof

Procedurally speaking:

To make your roux, throw equal parts butter and flour in a cast-iron skillet, and cook over low heat.  You now, technically, have a roux, but unless you’re a Union cook, you ain’t done yet.  In fact, the secret to good etouffee is cooking the roux for a long-ass time, until it achieves a rich, complex flavor, and a peanut butter hue (trust me, though: adding actual peanut butter is not a viable time-saver.)  Once you’ve got your roux, throw in some diced onion, celery, and bell pepper (which, like the menages-a-trois I had with those El-Al stewardesses last weekend, is called a “holy trinity”), and saute for a while.  Toss in your Cajun seasoning, any beer you have left, some chicken stock, and a live alligator for authenticity, and bring to a boil.  Add your meat and/or seafood, and let simmer.  When done, serve over some rice and wonder why you didn’t just order some Chinese food, in the first place, because this dish looks a lot like the Number 34 at the Happy Fun Time China Food Palace, right down the street.

Unluckily for you, this is the nightmare-fuel of an image that came up when I typed in "creole."  Good luck sleeping tonight, kids.

Unfortunately for all of us, this happens to be the picture that came up when I typed "creole" in Google images. Something tells me that kids who listen to Maw-Maw's Creole Lullaby never wake up again.

Actually, a wonderful accompaniment to etouffee is a nice basket of warm buttermilk biscuits, but I don’t feel like telling you how to make that shit, right now, so just have someone make a run to KFC about twenty minutes before dinner, to buy some.  Have them pick up a bucket of extra crispy and some of them snacker sandwiches, too, for when you inevitably burn your roux and ruin the dish. 

*Or, “freedom paste,” as it was briefly known after the 2003 commencement of the Iraq war.