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Best etouffee?

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  • guate Dec 12, 2008 12:49 PM
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A friend will be visiting next week and she, like I, loves etoufee. I am not sure what our budget will be so ... First, what is your favorite place for this dish, bar none? Then, who has the best that is on the affordable side?

My introduction was to crawfish etouffee at the Gumbo Shop years before I moved here. That single meal still ranks very high to me on my lifetime list of meals, and I have been pretty happy the few other times I have had it from there, though not in that first kiss kind of way. Her knowledge of etoufee is from House of Blues in California and somehow I think we may both have fallen for a dish that wasn't even at its prime!

We could stick with what we know we like, but I would like to take her someplace more individual and special - either fancy or divey. So, where should it be?

Thanks!!

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  1. I'm curious as to the responses you will get---I rarely have etouffee (A-2-Fay) in The City unless someone makes it at home or a Cajun waiter at a restaurant whips up a batch. Nowadays the usual offering is a glutinous glop that usually tastes OK but is a far cry from the original, simple sauteed business. I wonder if Bon Ton is offering it? This time of year, of course, you'll get frozen tails from China or Spain, most likely. The Chinese finally figured out how to freeze the stuff and it can be perfectly passable but loyalty demands that we try to support our own producers. And frozen products don't give you enough crawfish fat, which is essential to any true version. Pond crawfish usually begin to appear around now so you might get that somewhere. I suppose you could could call Harlan's Seafood and ask him who is buying it....

    14 Replies
    1. re: hazelhurst

      Yes, Bon Ton serves it, and they cook it without a roux (just butter and fat). I make mine with a roux, but to each his own. I'm like you hazel, I hardly ever buy etouffee in the city. Actually, we hardly ever buy any cajun dishes anywhere. That said, I have tried the etouffee at Bon Ton, and it's a respectable rendition - as respectable as anyone from the Houma area can produce I suppose. (Jab at my Houma wife) Aside from Bon Ton, I don't know who makes a good etouffee. New Orleans Food and Spirits in Bucktown has excellent cajun dishes at reasonable prices. I only went once, but I tried several dishes. My shrimp stew was incredible. Never tried their etouffee, but I would venture a guess that it is pretty good.

      FYI, you can get frozen LA crawfish year-round now, and I bet Bon Ton serves LA bugs whenever it can. Also, I make etouffee with frozen LA tails when crawfish are out of season, and they taste just fine. I'll never buy chinese tails in a store or restaurant. Ask first and the waiter will tell you where they're from. I'm pretty sure the law now requires restaurants to tell patrons where seafood comes from it they ask.

      1. re: N.O.Food

        OT-to N.O.Food. My mother was from Houma & still have cousins there. I spent many a summer there. Small world.

        1. re: kftw

          Small world indeed. I'll be heading to Houma tomorrow to spend a week down there. I'm ready for a seafood muffeletta from the French Loaf and some mexican from La Casa. And some boiled seafood from 1921. I'll probably put on some weight.

        2. re: N.O.Food

          While the "original" (whatever that is) had no roux, I must admit that the BEST etouffee I ever ate did have flour. It was made at a friend's home in Lafayette and he made just enough roux "to make it stick" to the rice. It was very light and did not get int the way. I think the heavy-roux versions took hold in the 1980's---this is just a guess---and we began to lose the parsley and/or green onion garnish around then. Of course, New Orleans is not the place to experiment with etouffee; it wasn't generally available in the City until the 1960's or 1970's. Crawfish bisque was around but that is something that I don't see many places anymore(like oyster stew).

          I'm glad to hear about NO Food and Spirits stuff--will check that out when next across Da Canal.

          1. re: hazelhurst

            "Crawfish bisque was around but that is something that I don't see many places anymore(like oyster stew). "

            Sorry about bringing up an old post but, you can still get both at Don's Seafood Hut on Vets and i have to say they are good.

            busta

            1. re: bustaduke

              Good to know..I see bisque from time-to-time but it often ain't the real deal. I can understand that given the time needed to do it properly. There was a country club that did a damn good bisque for years but then there were kitchen/management changes and the gang by the stoves just went through the motions and the stuff wasn't worth using for hog slop. It's easy..like the oyster stew..but ya gotta pay attention

              1. re: hazelhurst

                HH,

                Out of curiosity, what is entailed in doing crawfish bisque properly?

                I have the tailmeat in the freezer, the desire to learn, and Chef Folse's "Encyclopedia" as a reference.

                His recipe is at: http://www.jfolse.com/recipes/soups/s...

                Does this approximate the process?

                Thanks in advance and no hurry.

                1. re: Monch

                  Today a lot of people don't stuff the heads, and that is truly necessary in an authentic dish. They make a boulette which floats around, and that doesn't yield the same effect or flavor.
                  The recipe seems quite on track to me.

                  1. re: cajungirl

                    Thank you, very much.

                    Now I wish I hadn't used 100% of my leftover heads for stock!

                    Ah well, live and learn. I'll have to do the bisque another time.

                  2. re: Monch

                    It just takes time...you can use the crawfish heads you used to make the stock..you can get into some fun fights over how to do the heads...bake them or fry them or a combination of each The stuffing is the key and I am a fan of a cornbread stuffing. A friend of mine makes his stuffing with some sherry added as he cooks it up. Crawfish fat is always a good idea in this mix.

                    I use bay leaves in the soup. Don't forget the parsley and green onion at the end. Some modern heretic likes cilantro in place of the parsley and I admit that it does work well

            2. re: N.O.Food

              Just checked the new law. Crawfish are included. It's illegal to misrepresent imported crawfish as Louisiana crawfish. Everybody should ask first and not buy if imported. Same with lots of other seafood as well.

              1. re: N.O.Food

                That's encouraging..of course, if foreign are $3/lb and LA are $6/lbs you will see lots of cheating. (It helps to keep a bag of stuff from LA on the premises--doesn't prove anything, of course..the vendors would probably have to rat them out.)

            3. re: hazelhurst

              To be completely honest, I much prefer my own over that of any restaurant. For some reason, I never truly have loved any etouffee that I have had at a restaurant. I just don't think that you get the consistency and it does end up a gloppy mess at times.

              1. re: ScarlettNola

                Well, you are certainly rigiht..if the restaurant makes it on demand..as some used to do...it would be fine but it has become so ubiquitous now that everyone is expected to have a tub of it on-hand. Some years ago I had a nice version in Acadiana and a companion, who grew up in the gloppy stuff, said it wasn't right...this was on a par with the time someone turned her nose up at homemade mayonnaise becuase it didn't tast or look like Hellman's. She said it wasn't mayonnasie. What can you do?

            4. I really like Bon Ton's etouffe. AND it's a nice place to eat without breaking the bank. Win. Win.

              5 Replies
              1. re: Plano Rose

                I'm not sure I would consider Bon Ton cheap. The etouffee is 20.50 with the majority of entrees in the 25-30 dollar range. You do get a side of veggies though. Come to think of it, I think that's the most expensive etouffee I've ever seen.

                1. re: N.O.Food

                  Etouffee at K-Paul's is about thirty bucks, which is one reason we don't go there any more. Granted, it's great etouffee, but we just can't get past the tourist pricing.

                  1. re: Absinthe Minded

                    dayum. that makes bon ton look like a steal.

                    1. re: Absinthe Minded

                      Are you honkin' kidding? $30 for etouffee? I can handle $30 for a dish requiring technical complexity, exotic ingredients, or incredible visual appeal, but I'm with you: I won't pay $30 for a dish so simple that any fourth-grade-kid entering the Lafourche Parish 4-H Club's "Sugar & Seafood" cooking contest can whip up a decent batch. (No, you don't have to use both ingredients in the same dish.)
                      http://www.lsuagcenter.com/en/our_off...

                      1. re: Hungry Celeste

                        You remind me of an evening in a certain restaurant in Uptown New Orleans back in about 1981 or '82. The Chief Cook--or chef or whatever--was a beautiful girl and I got along well with her. Well, I was there one day and for some reason ended up in the kitchen chatting with her while she was filleting something. Now, this was in the days when Paul Prudhomme was driving the price of redfish from $0.90/lb to $12.00/lb & local places knew they could get away with murder so places in the Quarter were charging $15.00 for jambalaya (it's expensive to truck in all that rice, you know). SO I am standing there talking to the cook and, through the door to the dining room, I can hear Duke, the maitrre d', explaining things to some tourists. They had an etouffee that was, oh, maybe $18.00. A customer remarked that she'd seen etouffee in the Quarter for only $10.00 whereupon it was explained to her that real etouffee(such as we had there that evening) is labor intensive and requires that each crawfish be individually killed with an ice-pick blow to the brain.

                2. from:
                  http://www.olivierscreole.com/menus/d...
                  Crawfish Etouffe - $17.95
                  Ms. Olivier begins with a very light roux, adds chopped bell peppers, green onion, and celery, mixes in chopped yellow onion, then cooks the vegetables into the roux. When the seasoning vegetables are browned, she adds a chicken stock and a touch of tomato paste, then begins flavoring with basil, thyme, and garlic. Crawfish are boiled in a spicy crab boil, peeled and added to the finished sauce. Served over rice.

                  (the lunch price will be $14.95 when they begin serving lunch in Jan. '09.)

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: edible complex

                    That description sounds like a perfectly decent effort...I can live with a light roux (the best I EVER had was composed with a light roux at a friend's home). I'd still like to see some parsley or green onion, though.

                    1. re: edible complex

                      Thanks so much for mentioning Olivier's. I was trying to think of it for my upcoming trip and could not remember the name. I really want to try it as I remember their menu looking really authentic.

                    2. Don't know if they are still there but I had pretty good Etouffe at a place called "Ralph & Kakoos" (sp) years ago. I remember it being a relatively inexpensive place

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: Eric in NJ

                        Sadly, Ralph & Kacoo's jumped the shark many moons ago. The original place up in Pointe Coupee was pretty good, then the proprietors rode the wave of cajun popularity into a multi-outlet expansion; still, it was a passable place. Eventually the chain was purchased by the Picadilly (cafeterias) chain....it's a sorry excuse for a tourist trap these days. Well, okay, maybe a rung or two above tourist trap, but not much better than that.

                        1. re: Hungry Celeste

                          For me, Ralph & Kacoo's joined the list with Mulate's....I just don't see the name anymore, even if I am looking right at it. There is a gated affair where R&K used to be on False River.

                          1. re: Hungry Celeste

                            Sad. After posting I realized i hadn't been to NO in probably 14 years so that was when i was at R&K last.

                          2. re: Eric in NJ

                            Ralph & Kakoos has a pretty good inexpensive crawfish Etouffee. Try Deanne's in the FQ. Just had the crawfish Etouffee at Deanne's last week, $14.95 including salad and that good light NOLA bread. You can order frozen crawfish from Louisana crawfish company. About 15.00 a pound. I have two pounds in my freeze now. Still looking for that right crawfish Etouffee recipe. Does anyone have a simple good crawfish Etouffee recipe? Not that ready mix stuff that you just add water and crawfish.

                            1. re: richard ko

                              It ain't notin but melting butter, sauteeing your vegetables, sweat them awhile (they will throw some water and you want to cook some of that off) then toss in your crawfish and the fat and warm it through but do not overcook the crawfish. It is really very simple. In my research (and I have done a LOT of it) ther is no Iconic Version..that is to say, no Original Recipe.

                              Some etouffees use a can of Cream of Mushroom soup..this gets fights started at blessed family events like weddings and Xmas. It requires a separate discussion. I have just about determined the geographical range of the canned soup version.

                              1. re: hazelhurst

                                An entirely separate discussion on tomatoes and/or tomato paste is also warranted, don'cha think? My family secret ingredient is a sprinkle of allspice. Please don't go down the evil path of cornstarch-thickening.

                                1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                  You're right....the Etouffee Wizard I have referred to before uses some tomato sauce to get his color---I think it is sauce --have not seen him make it in awhile. He has a version with Ro-tel tomatoes that is right fine. Well, if you grow up around Bazile and environs, you otta damn well know what yer doin'

                              2. re: richard ko

                                When I have had frozen crawfish, I prefer to make a crawfish pie. I think there is a distinct difference between the taste of frozen and fresh, and in the pie, the "frozen" taste tends to be masked a little better than in the etouffee. Maybe it's just me, but I just don't like the taste of frozen. Also be sure to check that the crawfish is Louisiana crawfish and not imported, as IMHO that impacts the taste as well.

                            2. Thanks, everybody! My friend ended up postponing her trip so I am postponing the etouffee as well. Eventually I will report back to you about what we try.

                              For now I am in Arizona eating amazing tamales. Yum!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: guate

                                If the trip is to be in the spring, I recommend giving everyone ample notice since the troops will be out-in-force running down leads.

                              2. We drive to NO at least once a year and I can't go to NO without a stop at Ralph and Kacoo's for the etoufee. Now their dinners. . .I've been disappointed several times so now we just go the bar for a cold beer, and we share a big bowl of etoufee and popcorn crawfish. And a bowl of the hot cornbread balls. And maybe another beer or two. *grin*

                                Now I'm hungry.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: union_98

                                  sorry R&K's in Metairie is closed.

                                  1. re: edible complex

                                    Not true. Open in the French Quarter, 7 days a week. http://www.ralphandkacoos.com/locatio...

                                    1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                      There is a Ralph & Kacoo's in Baton Rouge. It is now owned by a speculating company. The food is so-so but the service is bar none. Their desserts are killer also and for the area they are in, prices are cost conscious.