Friday, July 26, 2013

Etouffee - That which is smothered

New Orleans here I come

Etouffee means "smothered". Smothering is a cooking technique that utilizes liquid to braise the ingredients in the dish. Wikipedia has a good description of Etouffe.

Etouffe has a unique flavor profile. Spicy, deep and dark flavor traditionally coat shellfish, served with rice and is a mainstay on New Orleans menus. It can and is found in both Cajun and Creole cuisines. Creole cuisine is considered "City" food and is both fancier and less spicy, while Cajun is simpler, and much more spicy. Originating in the home kitchens of Cajun French of Acadiana, Cajun dishes reflect a home style cuisine.

The following is my twist on Crawfish Etouffee, I have introduced a few non-traditional ingredients such as the addition of pork loin in my version that will provide me with a baseline between this recipe and the next blogs recipe, but rest assured this recipe if followed properly will produce a flavor profile in your resulting dish will be true to the traditional dish. In my opinion this recipe will rival any of the best Etouffe you will find in New Orleans.

My twist is that my recipe is for Crawfish and Pork Etouffee. Who says you can't have meat and seafood in the same dish. Who says you can't add broccoli and peas to Etouffee. I like broccoli and peas. And the pork cuts down on the cost of the dish. There is often good reason to honor traditional dishes exactly, but this isn't one of them. Recipes are flexible, Food is flexible, and my imagination is flexible as well.

So here we go.

Main Ingredients
Main Ingredients from top/left to right:

  • Rice Pilaf
  • Pork Loin
  • Crawfish
  • Green Pepper
  • Onion
  • Scallions
  • Broccoli and Peas
  • Tomato
  • Garlic
  • Chicken Stock

Flavor Agents
Flavor Agents from top/left to right

  • Lobster Base
  • Hot Sauce
  • Maggi
  • Zatarain's (this is more than 3 drops, I only used 3 drops of this)
  • Chocolate Roux

Important: DO NOT add salt to this dish at any time. The ingredients I have in the recipe are loaded with sodium. No extra salt required.


400g - Chicken Stock
25g - Lobster Base - Superior Touch - Better than Bouillon
3 drops - Zatarain's Shrimp and Crab Boil
3g - Maggi
13g - Original Louisiana Hot Sauce
11g - Chocolate (Cajun) Roux - Just an estimate, add little by little, adjust as necessary

  • Add Lobster Base, Maggi, and Hot Sauce to stock
  • Bring stock to a simmer
  • Add roux little by little until sauce will coat a spoon well.
  • Simmer 5 minutes, remove from heat - Place a couple of pats of cold unsalted butter on top, swirl in but not completely - Reserve
Note on the Zatarain's:
Be very careful with this particular flavor agent. I believe it plays an indispensable role in this recipe so don't omit it. But it is VERY strong and salty. When I say 3 drops, I mean 3 drops. Add them with an eye dropper. Taste after each drop to decide if you need another. You can ruin your dish in an instant by adding too much of this. I know, in researching this recipe, I did just that. I added too much, never checked it, made the whole dish and my result was inedible. I had to throw it all out.

Add each ingredient little by little to the stock. Taste at each addition. If you do this you can elect to not add the total amount of any given ingredient until you have your stock's flavor profile to your liking.  Plus it teaches you how each flavor agent changes the flavor profile of the stock. Always add the ingredients in the order I have listed them. Add the roux last and only after the stock is simmering steadily. Be sure to add it little by little, stirring with a whisk constantly until each addition of roux is incorporated. You must be able to add enough roux to thicken properly without overpowering the flavor profile of the stock. If you made your roux properly this should not be a problem. You should be able to take the flavor profile very deep, it can be likened to dark straight black coffee, this is what you want. It should compliment the other flavors not overpower them. It should taste wonderful. Yes there should and will be a "hint" of bitterness to it, but that should NOT be overpowering. If it is you burnt your roux slightly when you made it. If your sauce actually tastes burnt after adding the roux, you really burnt your roux when you made it. If so, start over.

Finished sauce, notice how dark the chicken stock has become. And trust me it tastes heavenly
Butter keeps it from forming a skin while it waits to be used, and adds body to the flavor profile
Swirling complete


270g - Pork Loin - Julienne
10g - Cajun Seasoning - Slap Ya Mama - Regular
  • Combine - reserve and marinate for 1 hour
270g - Crawfish Tail Meat - cooked - whole
10g - Cajun Seasoning - Slap Ya Mama - Regular
  • Combine - reserve and marinate for 1 hour

75g - Green Pepper - diced
75g - Onion - minced
20g - Garlic - minced
100g - Peas - blanched
100g - Broccoli  Florets - blanched
150g - Tomato Concasse - Diced
Rice Pilaf - 1 batch as per recipe in previous blog - Hot and ready to serve
Scallions - green part only, sliced for garnish

  1. It has been 1 hour since you started marinating the pork and crawfish
  2. The sauce is properly flavored and thickened 
  • Preheat saute pan well
  • Saute pork in Virgin Olive Oil until just beginning to brown
  • Add onions, saute until translucent
  • Add garlic, saute until fragrant
  • Add sauce, Peas, Broccoli and Tomato
  • Bring all back to a simmer
  • Make sure before adding the final ingredient (Crawfish) that the dish is finished, i.e. that the sauce is as thick as you want it, and any other adjustments (there should be none) have been addressed. 
It is essential for the outcome of this dish that once added the crawfish can only take being cooked until it's thoroughly heated, any more and it will instantly begin to shrink and become tough.

  • Add Crawfish, cook only as long as it takes for the entire dish to be brought back to "Hot and ready to Serve". Immediately remove from heat and serve with Rice Pilaf and garnish with Scallion.

I have spent many an enjoyable evening sitting in some of the finest restaurants in New Orleans, enjoying authentic Crawfish Etouffee. I can tell you without hesitation, this recipe will produce a resulting flavor profile that is not only identical to those dishes, but with the addition of the non traditional ingredients I have introduced surpases them. 

Sauce ready, saute pan preheated, ready to go

Sauteing Pork

Adding the peppers

Now the onions

Vegetables added

All ingredients in

Ready to serve

Ready to plate


 Pork and Crawfish Etouffee, deep dark flavor, spicy and simply wonderful. 


    Thursday, July 25, 2013

    Rice Pilaf

    Rice Pilaf-

    This is a very simple recipe, posted for use in the dishes I describe in the following blogs.

    I like to use Basmati rice, but Pilaf is a technique of cooking rice in a seasoned broth, any rice can be done pilaf.

    Basmati Rice - 375 g.
    Chicken Stock - 900 g.
    Onion- Diced - 100 g.
    Celery - Diced - 100 g.
    Bay Leaf - 2 each

    The ingredients, note rice is soaking in cold water

    Soak rice in cold water for 30 minutes. Strain and rinse.

    Ready to go

    Saute onions and celery until translucent
    Add rice, chicken stock and bay leaf

    All ingredients added

    Season with Salt and Pepper (preferably white pepper)
    Bring to a simmer

    Ready to cover

    Cover and reduce to medium-low heat for 10 minutes

    After 10 minutes on medium-low heat

    Remove from heat, let sit covered for 15 minutes

    After sitting covered off heat for 15 minutes

    Final product

    Sunday, July 21, 2013

    Roux - Legally Blond to Scandalously Dark

    Once a pillar of haute cuisine, now with the emphasis on healthy diets roux seems to have fallen out of favor. Yet even today you simply can't achieve the flavor of certain dishes as they were meant to be without using a roux. Sure you can thicken by alternative methods that don't introduce the fat that a roux does. Many that will give you wonderful results. But in certain dishes, Cajun cuisine comes to mind, you will never achieve that authentic flavor without using and mastering a roux.

    Never has so simple a recipe been so misunderstood. It is mysterious to many due to the fact that making a roux correctly involves as much a sense of what not to do, as simply following a set recipe. Other than it's ingredients nothing is certain. How long to cook it, how high a temperature to cook it at, whisk or stir, blond or dark, how and when to use the end result are all up for interpretation. The answers to these moments of decision are nothing less than the result of experience. You simply have to work with the medium. Make the attempts, do not be afraid to fail since you invariably will, notice when it works and learn from it when it does not.

    Roux is an art built on technique garnered through practice utilizing only two ingredients, fat and flour. Done properly and used sparingly, roux continues to have a place in culinary tradition today. Above all else making good roux involves a commitment in time and unbending patience.

    The following describes how to make a roux though all its major stages, i.e. blond, medium, brown, dark brown.

    Then there is the unique very dark brown roux used in Cajun dishes. This roux has been called by many different names. I have heard it referred to as a very dark brown roux, a brick or red brick roux.  I call it a chocolate roux and will do so in this blog because that is what it looks like to me. Whatever you call it, a Chocolate roux is actually taken beyond any of the other standard roux and is the hardest to keep from burning while it develops. The phrase "Black" roux is a marketing ploy. If you take it to black you've burnt it.

    To help you know if you have made a chocolate roux properly let me try to describe what it should taste like. But remember, it's not meant to be eaten by itself. By itself it is very strong.

    To me it always tastes like strong coffee or dark chocolate. There is a difference between milk chocolate and dark chocolate. Milk chocolate is sweet, while dark chocolate has a bitterness to it. Likewise there is a difference between different levels of roux. My medium and Brown roux are almost sweet, tasting and looking almost identical to homemade creamy peanut butter. My chocolate roux is a completely different animal.

    Another way I describe it is to liken it to strong black coffee. Black coffee is bitter when made normally but quite bitter when made strong. My chocolate roux always has a significant level of bitterness to it. It's certainly not sweet.  But it does NOT taste burnt.

    Some people describe the taste of a chocolate roux as very dark but not burnt toast.

    If you do burn it, you should be able to tell without a doubt. It will taste burnt more than bitter. You will see small specks of black as you stir and they will not go away. But be advised, there are different levels of burnt. It is possible to burn it slightly and without tasting it, you may not be aware you burnt it. Just remember that some bitterness is expected, it's supposed to taste that way.

    The goal is to caramelize the roux as it develops. The more your committed to stirring, the more your roux will caramelize, the less chance it will burn.

    Finally, Cajun dishes made with a chocolate roux have a unique flavor. Some people simply don't like it. They go to New Orleans and look forward to authentic Cajun cuisine only to find it's too strong for them. Realize that you can make the same dish with a medium or brown roux. Done with these roux, they will not have near the deep dark taste that you get from a chocolate roux. Experiment with the different levels of roux. Then use the roux you like, not the roux you think your supposed to use.

    Equal parts by weight:
    All Purpose Flour


    • Cooking utensil. Preheat your pan thoroughly. The tool you use to make roux in is very important, either use a well seasoned cast iron skillet with high sides or use a good quality Dutch Oven.
    • Choose your fat carefully. Butter and neutral oils (Canola,Peanut or Vegetable) work best. Whole butter is best for a blond or medium roux. When making a brown or dark brown roux, choose clarified butter over whole butter so there are no milk solids to burn. Cajun roux's are almost exclusively made with all oil due to it's higher smoking point. Heat your fat to it's smoking point and immediately start to carefully add the flour little by little until all flour is incorporated. Immediately reduce heat to medium-low.
    • Always cook roux over medium low to high-low heat. If you try to rush it, it will burn instead of caramelize. It will still develop color like it should so it might look right but the flavors will be off. Depending on how high you cooked it, the flavors could be way off and give a burnt taste to your entire dish. Exercise patience.
    • Roux shouldn't pour. Roux won’t pour at any stage. If roux is runny, it’s because the flour/fat ratios were off from the start.
    • Do not let it smoke. If roux smokes even a little bit, remove from heat while continuing to stir, lower heat before replacing.
    • Black specks on the pan surface that do not go away as you stir (usually after you have stopped stirring for a moment or two). You burnt it, Throw out and start over.
    • ONCE YOU START. DO NOT STOP STIRRING. This is where the commitment in time and patience comes in. Lighter roux's are not a problem, but dark brown and Cajun roux's are a totally different animal. You have to be willing to pay the price to do them correctly. To end up with a chocolate roux that still has a bittersweet deep strong black coffee taste to it is not easy. Most people end up thinking they have made it and stop, not realizing that they only have a medium or dark brown roux. Once they realize that, they try again and end up burning their second attempt.You will know if you burn it bad. But there are different levels of burnt. A great roux becomes great because of caramelization. If your complacent about stirring, the high heat of the roux will cause it to burn slightly without creating major noticeable black specks, and yet your roux will end up more bitter that nutty. I suggest an environment with music, that will last hours without attention, no one else home, no phones of any sort that could ring, cold beer within reach and a cigar off to the side. That's how I do it anyway. 
    • To thicken. Add cold roux to hot liquid to avoid lumps. 
    There are four distinct stages of roux development in classical French cuisine

    Do not rush, better to take longer than try to go too fast. Once I add the flour to the hot oil, I work at a setting between medium-low to no greater than high-low during the whole process.

    First stage is a blond roux. Uses include the mother sauce Bechamel. Approximately 20 -  30 minutes into cooking over medium-low heat. 

    Second stage is a medium roux. Uses include basic brown sauces. Approximately 60+ minutes into cooking over medium-low heat. 

    Now were into the third stage, brown. Looks like creamy peanut butter. Approximately two hours into cooking over medium-low heat. I have not yet stopped stirring

    Dark Brown headed toward a Red or "Brick" roux. Used liberally in Creole dishes. Over two hours now. Still stirring. 

    Beyond a red roux, almost to a Cajun roux. Two and a half hours now. Still stirring.

    BE CAREFUL, If you get it on you it will stick and burn you like napalm.

    When you are almost there, remove from heat and continue stirring, it will continue to darken and have a chance to burn for another fifteen minutes. Used in Cajun dishes.  Just over three hours into cooking over medium-low heat. I have not yet stopped stirring

    Cajun roux otherwise known as "Scandalously Dark Roux". I know this takes a long time to make, but the good thing is you can make this and store in a good quality container that has a tight lid. It will keep in the refrigerator indefinitely. When you need some it will be a small amount. You can simply scrap out what you need with a spoon. 

    One note on the time it took me to achieve this particular batch of chocolate roux.  I have seen many on-line videos and web sites of "famous" chef's going over how to make Cajun roux. And they all say it takes anywhere from fifteen to forty-five minutes.

    In this roux I made for this blog I used half Peanut Oil and half whole butter because I wanted the flavor the butter would impart. I also made what is considered a larger batch. When using butter you MUST work slower at lower temperatures to keep it from burning. And of course larger batches take longer.

    If you make it with all oil, and/or small batches it can be done in a lot less time.

    Monday, July 1, 2013

    Klobasnek sometimes called Kolache


    The following is the Wikipedia definition of Klobasnek, it is important to note the distinction between the savory Klobasnek and the typically sweet dessert item known as Kolache. - A klobasnek /ˌkloʊˈbæsnɪk/, pl. klobasniky, is a savory finger food of Czech origin. A klobasnek is often thought to be a variation of the kolache (koláče); however, most Czechs hold the distinction that kolache are only filled with non-meat fillings. Klobasniky are similar in style to a pigs in a blanket or sausage roll but wrapped in kolache dough. Traditionally klobasniky are filled only with sausage, but as their popularity has increased in the United States, combination ingredients such as cheese and peppers have been included alongside the sausage for added flavor.

    So the next time your at Kolache Factory, let them know that they are using the term Kolache incorrectly. Having said that I have to admit that the Kolache Factory makes a damn good product even if they choose to call it by the wrong name. I guess Kolache is a whole lot easier for the American public to say than Klobasnek, marketing...

    In any case I just had to try to make these myself, there so good. It turns out to be fairly easy if not time consuming considering all the different stuffing mixes one can make. T

    he meisen plas can get quite extensive. I spent an entire Saturday evening pulling together six different stuffing mixes. It was worth it, they are awesome.

    So lets start with the dough. As a note, it seems for the above Wikipedia entry that the dough itself is identical to the dough used for Kalache.

    Kalache Dough:

    TWF- 775 grams
    Hydration - 62%

    477 g. Half and Half 62%
    115 g. Butter + extra soft butter for glazing 15%
    2 each Egg Yolks - slightly beaten
    114 g. Sugar 15%
    775 g. All Purpose Flour 100%
    14 g. Non-Diastatic Malt Powder 2%
    10.6 g. Instant Yeast 1.4%
    11 g. Salt 1.4%

    Scald half and half. Allow to cool to tepid. Add Butter, sugar and slowly add eggs while constantly whipping milk mixture.

    Stir until all are mixed well and butter is melted.

    Add milk mixture to mixer. Add Flour, Malt Powder and Yeast. Mix until just combined. Autolyse 30 minutes. Add Salt, Knead 15-20 minutes in mixer than mix on a board by hand until glossy. Approximately another 15 minutes.

    Just out of mixer

    After about 5 minutes of hand kneading

    After about 10 minutes of hand kneading

    After about 15 minutes of hand kneading

    After about 20 minutes of hand kneading. It's  ready now, note it's  got a sheen to it.

    Rise to double.



    Scale to 75 g.

    Punch down

    Start to scale


    Form into rough rounds


    Flatten into flat rounds 1/4" thick

    Ready to fill

    Place stuffing mix of choice in middle

    wrap dough up around mixture and seal bottom.
    Place on sheet pan, with parchment paper that has been lightly dusted with semolina flour and brush with whole softened butter.

    I try to make different shapes to differentiate between the fillings

    Bake at 425° for 15 minutes