Prawn Étouffée is rarely seen on European restaurant menus. Learn how to make this American dish, comprising shrimp and Cajun roux, at home instead.
Last week my father would have turned 73 and it was with great gusto that I decided to create a prawn dish to celebrate his birthday in his honour. Seafood had a positive connotation in our household as it was usually enjoyed to mark positive events such as birthdays or achievements.
Only after I made it did it occur to me this dish wouldn’t have been his first choice because he wasn’t a saucy kind of a person. I am. And so the blurring of his memory continues, even though he’s only been gone for less than 18 months. It’s scary.
Maya Angelou said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
How true. I might start forgetting the small details such as my father’s likes and dislikes but I’ll never forget how he made me feel – unconditionally loved and accepted, no matter what. Cheers to you, Gawie!
If you’re looking for something offbeat, look no further.
Étouffée hails from the Cajun and Creole cuisine and literally means “smothered” in French. The secret to this recipe is Cajun roux, which is flour that has been gently cooked in oil. It eventually turns brown and gives the food a wonderful nutty flavour.
The Americans use shrimp or crawfish, whereas we use prawns.
This is not a simple weeknight dinner. A better occasion would be a Saturday night in with your loved ones or friends where you can chatter while taking turns stirring the roux. Patience is key. Whatever you do, don’t turn up the heat too high because then the flour would burn. If black specks appear, everything will need to be thrown away and you’ll have to start again. The last thing you want is your dinner to have a bitter, burned taste.
While listening to loud music and drinking wine, I ended up with a jar of peanut butter next to me to keep checking whether the roux has reached the right colour. After that everything was a doddle. Have a go at it! I promise you it’s sublime.
What is your favourite way of enjoying prawns?
Love seafood? Check out these cookbooks!
- My Kitchen Table: 100 Fish and Seafood Recipes
- Fish & Shellfish
- Rick Stein’s Seafood
- Nathan Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen
- Rick Stein: From Venice to Istanbul
Prep 15 minutes
Cook 60 minutes
Total 75 minutes
Author: Michelle Minnaar
A dish you would rarely come across on European menus.
- 1kg (2½ lbs) raw prawns with heads
- 750ml (3 cups) water
- 80ml (1/3 cup) vegetable oil
- 80ml (1/3 cup) flour
- 1 small onion
- 1 stick celery
- 1 green pepper
- 2 garlic cloves
- 125ml (½ cup) white wine
- 15ml (1 tbsp) Cajun spice
- 15ml (1 tbsp) paprika
- 30ml (2 tbsp) butter
- 125ml (½ cup) fresh parsley
- 125ml (½ cup) fresh chives
- Peel and devein the prawns. Reserve the heads and shells.
- Put the heads and shells in a large pot with the water. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and reserve 1½ cups of this stock. Set aside.
- Mince the onion, celery, pepper and garlic. Set aside.
- To make the Cajun roux, heat the oil in a heavy cast-iron skillet or steel saucepan. Not nonstick!
- When the oil is hot, add the flour, a little at a time, and blend to a smooth paste using a wooden spoon.
- Cook over a medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the Cajun roux reaches the desired colour. It would take between 25 and 40 minutes. It will gradually deepen in colour from light beige to tan, to a deeper, redder brown.
- When it reaches the colour of peanut butter, remove the pan from the heat and immediately mix in the minced vegetables. Continue stirring to prevent further darkening.
- Add the seafood stock and blend well.
- Add the white wine and bring to a boil.
- Stir in the Cajun spice and paprika and remove from the heat.
- In another pan, melt the butter. Add the prawns, stir and cook until pink. Stir in the parsley and chives.
- Combine the prawns with the sauce and stir well.
- Season with salt and hot pepper sauce to taste. Serve immediately.
Serve on a bed of rice with white wine.
Courses Main Course
Serving Size 196.6g
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value
Total Fat 17.1g
Saturated Fat 3.7g
Total Carbohydrates 6.6g
Dietary Fiber 1.4g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.