Thursday, February 27, 2014

Celebrate Mardi Gras with Etouffee

According to the good people at Wikipedia....”Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday, referring to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, which begins on Ash Wednesday.”

Tuesday, March 4th is Fat Tuesday….the biggest day during Mardi Gras.  I think it’s as good of a reason as any to celebrate.  Why not?  At least you can get some good food out of it, and Cajun/Creole cuisine is some of the best in the world.  Today I am going to show you a dinner that you can make, pretty easily, to eat this Tuesday.  

Today, I am making Chicken Étouffée….or rather, my version of it.  Étouffée just means that whatever you are cooking, whether it is chicken, shrimp, crawfish, etc. is smothered in gravy.  The gravy is made of a roux.  I think we have discussed this before, but in case you mentally blocked it….a roux is a mixture of fat and flour that is cooked together.  This mixture will thicken a sauce, and give it a nutty flavor.  I have a cool trick for making a roux that I will show you in a bit.  My other cool trick is that I cook my étouffée in my slow cooker.  Hello easy!


I start the recipe by browning big bone-in chicken breasts.  They are usually called “split breasts” at the grocery store.  I liberally season the breasts with cajun (or creole) seasoning, then brown each side in oil on the stove top.  This will help give the chicken a really good flavor.  I always brown meat before it goes into the slow cooker.  This keeps it from getting mushy.


Next, I make my roux.  I melt some butter and oil in a large, over-proof skillet.  Once the butter is melted, I whisk in some flour.  Once the mixture is smooth, I pop the pan in the oven to cook for about twenty minutes.  I don’t touch it all during this time.  The roux will come out dark brown.  It will give the étouffée a wonderful nutty flavor that seriously can’t be matched.


Once the chicken was browned and the roux baked, I tossed the onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic, bay leaves, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and concentrated chicken stock into the slow cooker.


I chose concentrated chicken broth because I want the broth flavor, but I don’t want this to get to soupy as it cooks all day in the slow cooker.  The concentrated broth gives all the flavor in a convenient little blob.


I also added the crushed tomatoes and chicken to the pot.  Then, I poured in the beer and roux.  I popped the lid and let this go for about 4 and ½ hours on low.  Your house will smell amazing!


Before serving, I take chicken out of the slow cooker.  Once it cools enough to touch it,  I remove the skin and bones and shred the chicken.  Then, I add it back into the slow cooker to let the flavors all meld back together.


I served my étouffée over rice, which is pretty typical.  This chicken ends up so moist, and almost has a nutty flavor from the roux.  The sauce is thick and delicious too.  I served mine with bread to sop up the extra sauce.  I also licked the plate but you don’t have to do that.


FYI-You can season this up with as much hot sauce as you like.  I am feeding children so I kept it mild.  And yes, I am pretending that is for the benefit of the kids, not myself who is a wuss with spice.


So yea, this takes a few steps, but none of them are hard.  And it is so worth it…..especially if you want to celebrate Mardi Gras like a New Orleanian.  New Orleaner?  New Orleanite?  Whatever.  Party like you are from Louisiana.


Chicken Étouffée


4 Tablespoons butter


4 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil, divided


½ cup flour


2 Chicken “Half Breasts” with skin and bones


2 Tablespoons Creole Seasoning (Tony Cachere’s)


1 teaspoon salt


½ teaspoon black pepper


1 small onion, chopped


1 bell pepper, chopped


¾ cup celery, chopped


2 cloves garlic, minced


1 pouch concentrated chicken stock (Knorr’s)


3 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce


Hot sauce to taste


12 ounces beer


1 cup crushed tomatoes


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.


In an oven proof pan, melt butter with 2 tablespoons oil.  Whisk in flour.  Stir until smooth.  Place pan in the oven and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Roux will be the color of peanut butter.  Set aside.


In a large pot, heat remaining oil over medium high heat.  Sprinkle chicken with creole seasoning, salt and pepper.  Brown chicken on all sides, about 2 minutes per side.


Place chicken in slow cooker with remaining ingredients.  Add roux and stir.  Cook on low heat for about 4 to 6 hours.


Remove chicken from pot.  Remove skin and bones and shred chicken.  Return shredded chicken to slow cooker.


Serve over rice.


Serves 4 to 6 people. 

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