Preparation / Directions:
The word etouffer means to braise or to smother. In Louisiana cookery it definitely means to smother. As popular a dish done with crayfish as with shrimp, "etouffee" represents an entire genre of cooking. Shrimp or crayfish etouffee is a country dish and should be spicy.
COOKING THE RICE: Put 3 cups water in a saucepan with 1 Tbsp butter and 1 tsp salt and bring to a boil. Add 1-1/2 cups rice. Bring the water to a simmer, cover and cook at a low simmer for about 20 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. Hold aside and keep warm. COOKING THE SHRIMP: Peel and devein the shrimp. Set aside, discard the veins, and mash the heads and shells in the bottom of a heavy saucepan using a blunt utensil such as a rolling pin or wooden mallet. Add approximately 1 quart of water to the pot and bring to a boil. Let boil for 20 minutes. Strain and discard the shells and reduce the liquid to 3 cups. This becomes a shrimp stock.
MAKING THE SAUCE: Heat the butter in a heavy skillet and blend in the flour. Cook together, stirring constantly until the roux acquires a golden color. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper and green onions. Cook together until all has browned. Add the 3 cups shrimp stock. Add the thyme, paprika, bay leaves and garlic. Add the salt, black pepper, and cayenne. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and continue cooking until it has acquired a thick saucy texture. Add the raw shrimp and cook just long enough for them to be barely cooked all the way through. Adjust seasoning. Serve each portion over hot cooked rice.
VARIATIONS: I have already mentioned crayfish which is the best. I have made fish etouffee that came out to be quite enjoyable. When crayfish are out of season and good shrimp are hard to come by, try the same preparation with fish filet, cut into 1 inch cubes and deep fried in batter.
NOTE: DON'T OVERCOOK! The shrimp, crayfish or fish should retain a good texture.