Picking out a favorite
I nearly threw out my back when I get my hands on this behemoth. I’ve read “My New Orleans” weighs in at over 5 lbs. I’m not sure the average cookbook weighs, but this one seems to be on the heavy side. All weight aside, this book is a masterpiece. Not only do the recipes and pictures look amazing, with each chapter having its own theme and captivating introduction, it’s actually a pleasant book to read.
After reading through most of the recipes, I had my heart set on making veal grillades and bbq shrimp, but when Paul Anthony’s was out of veal shoulder and gulf shrimp, I went for the equally impressive crawfish étouffée.
Besh is known for his locally sourced Creole dishes and this recipes is one of his “master recipes”. I suppose this is a master recipe because the crawfish can be easily replaced with shrimp or crab. Anyway, the recipe looks simple enough, but I first need to make a quart of “basic shellfish stock”.
Like any good stock, this one starts with a lot of vegetables.
It’s into a pot with ¼ cup of canola oil over medium heat. The idea is just to soften the vegetables not brown them. Once softened, 3 quarts of water, 1 bay leaf, 1 sprig of fresh thyme, and 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns were added to the pot. Now it’s time to the shellfish of the shellfish stock.
Shellfish stock seems to be a pretty open ended recipe. I could use 1 pound of shrimp shells, blue crab, crawfish, or lobster. I decided to use a few frozen blue crab shells that I had picked up at Paul Anthonys.
Bring everything to a boil and then back it down to a simmer.
You think I could now get back to the étouffée but no, I need 3 cups cooked “Basic Louisiana white rice”. Of course even that is deceptive. The recipe for Besh’s “Basic Louisiana white rice” calls for 1 tablespoon butter, 1 small onion minced, 1 ½ cups
I love the my rice cooker, so I was convinced I could use it to make this recipe.
First the fat is added to a medium saucepan and the onions are sweated until translucent. Besh says it takes five minutes, and damn if that man isn’t right.
With both stocks and the rice made, I can finally start on the étouffée
Now the rest of the produce is added.
The colors quickly changed from light.
Five minutes later that dark color was back.
Here’s where my time begins to pay off.
After 5-7 minutes, I can’t tell much difference, but it’s now time for the butter.
After seasoning with 2 dashes of Worcestershire, 2 dashes of
All I need now is the rice
When I actually tried the étouffée, I was surprised at how much the crab from the shellfish stock shone through. I was also amazed at how soupy it seemed to be. I thought I did something wrong, but looking at the pictures from Besh’s book, the étouffée seems like it’s supposed to be that soupy.
Maybe it’s me, but I prefer a slightly thicker étouffée. Also, this dish needed a bit more cayenne. With a little more spice thrown in, the étouffée was more to my liking. Even with the soupy setback, I’m not discouraged; I’m going to be spending a lot more time cooking from John Besh’s “My New Orleans”.