I don’t know about y’all, but I love traditions. I’ve had the same ones for as long as I can remember, and I’m hoping to pass down some of our favorites to our kids so that they can keep the feeling alive with their own families in the future. Of all holidays, Christmas is my favorite time of year. Family comes to town, the weather gets colder, and people are always just so nice compared to the rest of the year!
My family has been cooking the same Christmas Eve dinner for several generations: Étouffée! For those of you that haven’t heard of it, Étouffée is a warm, southern Cajun and Creole meal, almost like a stew. My grandfather is from Louisiana, where Cajun food is a huge thing, like Texans with barbecue. He is the one who kept this tradition going with his family, and he passed the recipe down to my mother. I still cook the Étouffée with my family to this day and always will. It is the perfect warm meal for Christmas Eve, where we eat it by candle light every year. My sister and I loved this as a kid and thankfully, my husband loves the meal just as much as I do, because I don’t know what I would have done if he didn’t! He always says “I’m ready for Christmas so I can try to beat my record of 4 bowls!” He ended up getting his first case of heartburn ever that year and thought he was going to die. So dramatic, right?
Everyone cooks Étouffée differently, but this how I like to cook mine:
- 3/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon ground thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon celery salt
- 2 lbs shrimp – deveined (thawed)
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/3 cup diced onion
- 1/3 cup diced green bell pepper
- 1/3 cup thinly sliced celery
- 2 table spoons all-purpose flour – or as needed
- 3 bottles clam juice (or 1 3/4 chicken broth)
- 1 fresh jalapeño (optional)
- 1/2 cup green onion
- 2 cups rice (if served with rice)
- First, mix together and set aside all spices in a saucer or small bowl.
- Peel all of your shrimp and place in a large bowl. I would advise using gloves so you don’t smell like shrimp all day after peeling them because it’s near impossible to get the smell out from under your fingernails. Place bowl in fridge when done.
- Chop all of your vegetables and place in a bowl together.
- Pour the clam juice (or chicken broth) in a pot to boil on burner.
- Once everything is prepared, I start the roux. I prefer to use a cast iron, but it is not needed. Any pot or pan with a heavy bottom will suffice. This is the hardest part of the whole meal. I unfortunately have burned the roux many times while learning to take over this recipe for my family, and you do not want to burn the roux. If you do, you are going to have to toss it out and start over. Also, if you think that’s the worst part, it’s not. The smell in the house from burning the roux is the worst! It takes forever to get the smell out of the kitchen. If you burn it, the Étouffée will taste bitter as well. Don’t feel bad if you don’t get the roux right the first time, because we have all been there! I’ve been cooking this meal every Christmas Eve since my mom passed the tradition down to me four years ago, and I still sometimes burn it and have to start over.
- Pour the oil into your pan and slowly start to add the flour. You will need to whisk continually for at least 25 minutes once all the flour has been added. I prefer a darker roux, but that’s just me. Others will make a lighter roux, but I believe more flavor powers through with a darker roux. The longer you cook the roux, the darker it will be. You’ll want to keep your burner on medium heat. The most important thing is to never stop whisking!
- Once the roux is at the coloring of your liking, you will turn the heat down a little lower, and add the vegetables to the roux. The roux will darken even more upon adding the vegetables. I add in almost all the mixed seasonings, setting aside the rest for cooking the shrimp later. It will take about 3-5 minutes to soften the vegetables.
- Add the clam juice (or chicken broth) to the pan. Once it comes to a boil, leave it to simmer for 15 minutes, giving you time to cook the shrimp.
- Cook the shrimp in a sauce pan with the butter, green onions, and the remaining seasonings.
- Pour them into the pot and let it all cook for another 3 minutes or so.
Voila! You have now cooked Étouffée! It can be a long meal to make, but I guarantee that it is totally worth the wait. We serve our Étouffée over rice, but that is totally up to you. You can also substitute the shrimp for chicken or crawfish. As for us, it is a tradition to cook the Étouffée with shrimp. I hope y’all enjoy the meal as much as we do! Let us know what you think in the comments! Happy cooking and God bless!