Thursday, December 30, 2010

Vegetarian Etouffee

A few months ago, my friends and I conspired a trip to New Orleans for New Year's Eve. The trip didn't end up happening, but an excitement for Cajun-style cooking happened instead.

In October, Garret and I went to a restaurant in San Jose's Santana Row, called Roux, where we had a sampling of cheesy grits, crawfish etouffee over rice, fried okra and Mississippi brews. The food was great and I especially enjoyed the etouffee. Etouffee (eh-too-fay) means "smothered" in French. In this case, covered in a rich tomato gravy.

When I came back from my trip up North, I decided to try and make etouffee, but in a vegetarian-friendly way. Here are my findings from digging through the internet and compiling this recipe. I can't guarantee it's authenticity to real Cajun food, but it's delicious and a great comfort food in cold weather.

Ingredients (serves 4)
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 chopped onion
1 chopped green bell pepper
1/2 chopped red bell pepper
3/4 cup finely chopped celery
1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups vegetable stock
1, 8 ounce block tofu, chopped into small cubes (carnivores may like shrimp or chicken)
Salt, cayenne, and black pepper
Tabasco sauce
juice of half a lemon
chopped parsley

4 servings cheesy grits or rice

I used this recipe for grits, but substituted broth for milk and used Quick Grits instead of polenta.

Melt the butter in a heavy pan until melted. Sift flour into butter mixture and whisk. Stir constantly for 15-20 minutes over medium heat until mixture becomes a brown color— be careful not to burn. You will smell it if the butter burns and you will need to start over.

Add the vegetables to this mixture and saute until the onions become translucent. Add thyme, tomato paste and stock and simmer for 20 minutes. Add tofu in the last 10 minutes of cooking. To finish, add salt, pepper and Tabasco to taste and squeeze in half a lemon. Stir and serve over cheesy grits. Top with parsley.

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