Not All Sunshine and Rainbows

37

Hello! How was your weekend?

I got my final day of freedom started bright and early, making pit stops at my parent’s house to chat, then to my brother & sister-in-law’s place to play with my nephew (and didn’t stop laughing once – omg, that child is AMAZING!) and finally to the grocery store to stock up on produce for the week!

1 hour of chopping/cutting/dicing later, and all my lunches and dinners for the next several days were prepped. Taking a little bit of time on Sunday to get dinners ready for the week is SUCH a time saver. Plus chopping produce is my favorite. I know.

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It was all sunshine and rainbows too, until a big container of freshly minced garlic fell off the counter and exploded over the entire kitchen. Freshly minced garlic is so sticky and, for Pete’s sake, all that work! Luckily there was still enough for dinner…you’ll see. :)

Last week I was hating my life working super hard on the step mill at the gym when Paula Deen’s show came on one of the wall-o-tv’s TV (isn’t it so torturous that they always put the Food Network on one of them?!)

Paula had her NOLA-residing brother-in-law on the show who was making a French Quarter favorite – Crawfish Etouffee. Like I said a couple weeks ago, I’ve been pining after my days in the big easy lately, and this recipe looked too good to resist. I had to recreate!

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FYI… "Etouffee is a Cajun dish typically served with shellfish over rice and is similar to gumbo. It is most popular in New Orleans and in the bayou country of the southernmost half of Louisiana." - Wikipedia

It turns out Paula’s recipe got some scathing reviews online, so I made a hop skip and a jump over to another Southern brotha’s etouffee recipe – Emeril’s Crawfish Etouffee.

Now, most etouffees start with a "roux" or a mixture of flour and butter cooked until thick and browned. It’s used to, in turn, thicken whatever dish you add it to. I’ve never made roux, but figured it couldn’t be too hard, so I got to work.

Roux Attempt #1: FAIL

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Yeeeeeah…I’m not really sure what happened here… I think I let the butter get too hot, then it burned and clumped and well…I had to start over.

Roux Attempt #2: Better!

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Probably because I used real butter! Chef’s out there – don’t hate – but I used a stick of margarine/butter blend in attempt #1, which probably contributed greatly to its demise. I went with the real thing for attempt #2, and got much better results. :)

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Yep, that’d be a whole stick. It’s not a Paula Deen recipe, but it sure starts out like one! ;)

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After the butter melted, I added in 2 Tablespoons flour, then stirred it constantly and vigorously over medium heat until it thickened and became a light beige color.

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About 5 minutes.

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Next I added the "trinity" of Southern cooking: bell pepper, onions & celery. Emeril threw me for a loop and also added green onions to the recipe!

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The veggies were joined by bay leaves, cayenne pepper, salt & some of that aforementioned garlic.

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Everybody sautéed for about 10 minutes, or until the celery was no longer crunchy. I cannot HANDLE hot, crunchy celery!

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The next step was slightly petrifying…adding clam juice to the mixture. Yes! Clam juice! It was actually super easy to find in the grocery store – right near the spaghetti sauce. (Why??)

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Emeril’s recipe called for shrimp stock, but Paula’s called for clam juice so I subbed and hoped for the best.

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Now, Emerils’ recipe is called CRAWFISH Etouffee, however, I have a hard time eating something I used to hunt in the creek by my house circa 4th grade, plus I have no idea where to get crawfish around here, so I subbed in a pound of mixed seafood from Trader Joe’s. Shrimp, bay scallops and calamari, oh my!

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At this point the recipe says to let the liquid boil and thicken for about 5 minutes, but my seafood was cooked in about 1, so I pulled it out and let the liquid reduce on its own for the full 5.

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Finished with a sprinkling of fresh parsley & lemon juice,

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then paired up once again with the the cooked seafood. 

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PHEW! I felt like I had run a marathon after all was said and done! Spilled garlic, burnt roux & nearly overcooked seafood? Sunshine and rainbows felt worlds away! Luckily it was totally, totally worth it. SO worth it! The flavor was light yet rich and the clam juice (which I feared would taste like fish sauce) tasted just faintly of the sea. 

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The thick sauce was soaked up by some long grain rice and, I’m tellin’ ya’, one bite and I felt like I was back in the bayou.

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Plus, hello, there was a stick of butter in there. In the words of Ina Garten:

Definitely recommend this recipe, minus the near epic fails of burning the roux and overcooking the seafood.

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ps, don’t you love/hate how seafood has a built in "you screwed up" feature? Aka getting super tiny and shrinky when you’ve cooked the hell out of it?Thanks, seafood.

In other news, my sister-in-law recently started this 6-day a week boot-camp style workout class and looks great – and I just ate about 1/4 stick of butter. Off to pack my bags to hit the gym bright and early tomorrow morning!

Have a great week!

~~~~~

Do you use others to motivate yourself to eat healthfully and/or exercise?

What’s your favorite style of cuisine?

I’m going to have to go ahead and say Asian followed very closely by home-cooked Southern!

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