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Think Shrimp for Lent

Although the Catholic Church no longer insists on abstinence during Lent, most Catholics still refrain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays during the 40 days of Lent. Althought I've never considered abstaining from meat a hardship, this can be the perfect opportunity to experiment with seafood and vegetarian fare. Here's an easy recipe to start you off well:

Ash Wednesday Shrimp Etouffee

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green bell peppers, chopped
  • 1/4 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp Kohser salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 2 Tbsp dry sherry
  • 1 1/2 cups shrimp stock (or chicken stock)
  • 1 lb fresh or defrosted shrimp , preferably unpeeled
  • 1/2 cup corn
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp fresh parsley leaves, chopped, plus more for garnish
  • Cooked long grain white rice, as accompaniment

For the shrimp stock (if using):

  • 3 cups raw shrimp shells and tails
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 medium celery stalk
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 medium fresh tomato, or 1/2 cup canned plum tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf

Make the stock (if using): Peel shrimp and remove tails. In a large saucepan over high heat, heat the oil until almost smoking and sauté the shrimp shells and tails, onion, carrot and celery for five minutes, stirring. Add water, wine, tomato and bay leaf. Reduce to medium, partly cover, and simmer 40 minutes. Strain through cheesecloth or fine strainer.

Make the etouffee: In a large heavy pot (cast iron, preferably), melt butter over medium-high heat. Add flour and cook. Using a spatula, stir the roux, scraping the entire bottom of the pot every time. Using a spatula allows you to move all of the mixture around and you don't have to make more than a few passes to do it. Stir the mixture every 15 seconds or so. The roux will bubble at first then will get smooth as it cooks.

WARNING. Don't be tempted to walk away and do something else, if the roux burns at any point during the process, it is no good. Cook until you have a blonde roux, the color of light peanut butter. Add onions, celery, bell peppers, green onions, garlic, bay leaves, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft, about five minutes.

Add sherry and cook for two to three minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, add corn and simmer until thickened, about five minutes. Add lemon juice and shrimp and cook until shrimp are no longer translucent (about two minutes, depending on size).

Stir in parsley and remove from heat.

Adjust seasoning, to taste. Serve over rice, garnished with additional parsley.

Note: Whenever you have shrimp, put raw shells in a zipper bag in the freezer until you have enough to make stock. The stock can be frozen for several weeks.

Tiger Wiseman is a long-time Wilton resident, part-time aspiring mystery writer and full-time foodie. She is always on the lookout for new ingredients, recipes and places to eat.

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