Friday, September 7, 2007

Is it etouffee without the crawfish fat?

Posted By on Fri, Sep 7, 2007 at 3:16 PM

The following letter is from Bill Sharkey, who owns Depeaux, which I reviewed this week. He responds to some of my comments in the review. What he has to say about etouffee I find especially interesting:

First, thank you for reviewing us. I feel for the most part, it was a very fair and accurate review. However, a few points:

1) We do put okra in our gumbo. We actually put 20 pounds of okra for every 60-quart batch that we make. There are also red and green bell peppers as well. As I'm sure you know, the method for cooking gumbo involves a long slow simmer after making your roux and adding your vegetables. The idea is for the vegetables to disolve [sic] and create a complex broth. Okra especially, is extremely delicate and is quick to disintegrate into the broth. If you have a gumbo which has whole pieces of gumbo, it was rushed and made improperly. I have used the same family recipe for 45 years and receive numerous compliments daily.

2) Our etouffee is a recipe that I've developed with Roosevelt Pryor in Baton Rouge in the mid 1970s. The problem with etouffee is that it is very polarizing. You either love it or you don't. We like the flavor of the crawfish to be present in our etouffee. Some people make it without the crawfish fat which gives it a milder flavor. But we feel that you eat crawfish etouffee to taste the crawfish. We also don't marinate our venison to make it taste like chicken.

3) Our bouillettes ... are cooked to order. Never in advance. Because we make them here, by hand, the sizes vary slightly which may account for the difference between yours and Wayne's.

We're glad you had a nice experience and hope you can visit when you are off duty and we'd love to discuss Creole cuisine with you.

As I said in my review, everyone has a different opinion about what constitutes good Louisiana cooking. Although Mr. Sharkey's addition of crawfish fat to his etouffee makes perfect sense and reveals an admirable attention to detail, my palate found the dish unpleasantly fishy-tasting. It would be interesting to hear others' opinions.

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