Etouffée – Smothered chicken and shrimp with Cajun seasonings for Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras centre piece

Mardi Gras colors are purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power. Beads are thrown from elaborate floats and costumed people riding the floats must disguise their faces, by law.

Mardi Gras is coming soon, offering a fun way to celebrate Spring with friends or to welcome Lent as a prelude to Easter. Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, has its origins in the French Catholic church. The custom was brought to the French colonies in North America in the 1700s, specifically New Orleans, and is now a legal holiday in Louisiana.

Over the years specific dishes featuring Cajun and Creole cuisine have become traditions. Both styles feature local ingredients but Creole dishes are more elaborate.

The backbone of every Cajun dish is a play on the French “mirepoix” (chopped onions, celery, carrots) and the “Holy Trinity” (onions, celery, bell pepper). The trinity, plus garlic, parsley and scallions, makes for an authentic Cajun dish. A Creole remoulade sauce, on the other hand, has about a dozen ingredients … and it’s usually served on the side.

A proper Cajun or Creole dish is not super spicy. It should leave you with a warm feeling in the back of your throat — not running to gulp down a glass of milk to put out the fire spreading down your esophagus.

Cajuns have their own version of French étouffées (meaning to cover or smother). This dish is also warmly spicy, but is made with a blonde roux, making it thicker and perfect for seafood, and it is heavy enough to be a main dish. This is what Vinny offers up today. He warns: This dish involves a lot of prep…but if you make it up in dribs and drabs over a couple of days, it is quite manageable. The taste sensation is worth the effort. Let’s get cooking!

Shrimp stock, Mardi Gras dinner

Boiling up the shrimp stock for the Cajun Etouffée

Cajun Etouffée
Serves 8

Shrimp stock (make up to a week ahead)

•    2 quarts of water
•    shells from 2 pounds shrimp
•    ½ large onion, chopped
•    1 green pepper
•    2 garlic cloves, chopped
•    1 celery stock, chopped
•    5 bay leaves

  1. Pour 2 quarts water into a large pot and add the other ingredients. Bring to a boil. Drop the heat and simmer for 45 minutes.
  2. Strain and divide into 2-cup portions. Freeze the stock until needed.
  3. Keep the shelled shrimp in the fridge (or freezer) for the étouffée.


•    1/4 cup oil
•    1/4 cup flour

•    ½ large onion, chopped
•    1 bell pepper, chopped
•    1-2 jalapeno peppers, chopped (throw away the seeds)
•    1 large celery stalk, chopped
•    4 garlic cloves, chopped

•    1 pint (2 cups) shrimp stock

•    1 tablespoon cajun seasoning
•    ½ teaspoon celery seed
•    1 tablespoon paprika (I like smoked paprika…)
•    salt

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy sauce pan over medium heat for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add the flour and stir in briskly, making sure there are n lumps. Cook for about 8 minutes, stirring often, until the mixture turns a light golden brown.
  3. Add the first four chopped veggies. Stir occasionally while cooking for 4 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic. Stir it into the mix and cook for 2 more minutes.
  5. Slowly add the shrimp stock, stirring after each addition. Allow to boil and cook until the sauce is smooth and bubbly.
  6. Add the seasonings. Taste and correct the salt.


•    2 pounds boneless chicken thighs – 16 pieces

  1. Season the chicken thighs and BBQ them until just done. Or fry them until golden.
  2. Reserve in a warm oven until needed. Or do them well ahead and store in the fridge till needed.
Chicken Étouffée,  LCBO class

Chicken Étouffée with rice and okra


  1. Reheat the roux on medium low. Add the chicken and turn the heat to lowest point. Cook for 10 minutes.
  2. Add the shrimp. Cook another 10 minutes.
  3. Add parsely, chopped garlic, and green onions. Pass a good bottled hot sauce, so people can add it to taste.
  4. Serve with rice and a veggie. I served a Cajun roasted okra with corn.
Mardi Gras table setting

Mardi Gras table setting, with a plastic “baby” that is customarily hidden in the King cake. The person who finds it is next up to host a dinner.

A few more notes

Hurricanes are the traditional kick-off for a Mardis Gras party. This delicious rum cocktail takes its health boost from its passionfruit component.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Karen
    Apr 02, 2019 @ 14:11:52

    You have lots of layers of flavor, I know I would enjoy your Etouffée recipe.


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