Smother your hunger with Louisiana’s answer to a downhome country stew.
Da’Bayou Creole Kitchen
313 N. Gilbert Rd., Gilbert
Cajun and Creole cuisines have different takes on étouffée, a thick seafood stew, usually made with shrimp or crawfish. The distinction: genteel Creole cooking incorporates tomatoes, while countrified Cajuns usually nix the juicy red fruit. True to the name, Da’Bayou Creole Kitchen toes the tomato line. Chef and co-owner Ali Biller makes crawdaddy or shrimp étouffée ($17, pictured) starting with a roux of butter and flour, to which she adds the “Holy Trinity” (equal parts onions, celery and green bell peppers, a classic component of Creole and Cajun cooking) and tomatoes, along with herbs and fiery spices, and then drenches the pan with house-made, garlic-tinged seafood stock. She simmers the mixture until it thickens, blackens the shrimp or crawfish with a spicy blend and cooks the succulent seafood in garlic butter with lemon juice and wine. Spoon the multilayered sauce over hot white rice and wait for the slow, supple burn.
Baby Kay’s Cajun Kitchen
2051 S. Dobson Rd., Mesa
Derived from the French verb “to smother,” étouffée originated in the bayous and backwaters of Louisiana, where Cajun cooks delighted in smothering plates of rice in a hearty crawfish sauce. Naturally, shrimp étouffée also became a hit with Louisianans due to the crustacean’s abundance in Gulf Coast waters. Baby Kay’s serves both. The shrimp étouffée ($16.95) sports six plump shrimp, peeled and lodged in a creamy sauce with a whisper of mushroom and flecked with chunks of celery, bell peppers and onions. The burn registers at medium-high, due to a well-seasoned sauce loaded with cayenne pepper and other hot Cajun spices. Paired with a heap of long-grain white rice, it’s a robust stew worthy of a frosty December night.
Flavors of Louisiana
Two Valley locations
The crawfish étouffée ($14.99) at Flavors of Louisiana reflects the country Cajun influence of her upbringing, says owner Jennifer Goff, who also has Creole heritage. “For us, it’s more about the flavor and not about the heat,” she says. Goff’s golden brown, buttery roux provides the start for a full-bodied sauce sprinkled with bell peppers, onions and a hefty dose of garlic. The trick to making a good étouffée? “The longer it simmers, the better it’s gonna be,” she says. Peeking through the sauce, you’ll find a princely amount of red-tinged crawfish and a mound of white rice. She even throws in a slice of garlic bread to mop up the ruddy remnants. Because crawfish is a little more fish-forward than shrimp and has more fat, it lends another level of depth to this Louisiana comfort-food favorite.