With Mardi Gras in full swing, I've had New Orleans on the brain all week. There's not a whole lot I miss about living there (I don't deal well with heat, ginormous bugs, etc.), but Mardi Gras was always quite a sight! Actually, all of their parades are, so if you have been wanting to get a feel for Mardi Gras but are intimidated by the thought of the crowds and all the craziness that goes along with it, try to go sometime over St. Patrick's Day or another parade holiday. That will give you a taste for it on a smaller scale. Even in the St. Patrick's Day parade, they throw beads ... and potatoes ... and cabbage ... and carrots ...
I've been debating a King Cake all week, but I won't be back in the office until Friday, and I know we wouldn't eat a whole one at home, so I decided to make a New Orleans-inspired dinner instead. Most people make some sort of seafood version, but I don't eat seafood (I'll sneak a few shrimp or crawfish here and there, or maybe a bite of lobster, but that's it.), so chicken it is. Chicken Étouffée is basically "smothered" chicken. I guess you could also look at it as a Cajun/Creole Chow Mein.
When I started looking at recipes to see how to go about it, the only things they seemed to have in common were bell peppers, celery, onion, and rice. After that, it started to vary wildly. Some include beer, others insist on a roux while others are anti-roux, etc. This is my Frankenstein version ... with beer AND a roux. :)
Oh, I'm also not a beer drinker, so when I saw that the recipes that included beer called for a dark beer, I thought that meant a lager. I have since been informed that not all lagers are dark, so maybe I should have used something else, but I was in Walgreen's earlier and happened to notice a 6-pack of Sam Adams, so that's what I got. Not because I'm a Boston girl, but because that was the only lager and that would be one less thing to schlepp from the grocery store later.
This is another one of those recipes where I cheated and started with cooked rotisserie chicken from the market. I really need to stop doing that. They are really good, but they keep getting smaller, and the price keeps going up, so it's not really a bargain anymore - at least where I live in NY now.
1 T olive oil
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 lg onion, diced
3-4 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c flour
1 T Worcestershire
2 c chicken broth
1 t Better than Bouillon stock base
1 t white pepper
1 T dried thyme
1 T Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning
2 T tomato paste
1/2 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
Cooked chicken, chopped or torn
Cooked white rice
See, there's another bonus to using the rotisserie chickens ... you can use the bubble tops as prep bowls to clear your cutting board for the next ingredient. :)
Saute the peppers, onion, and celery in the butter and olive oil until they start to soften, then whisk in the flour and let that cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly, to form a roux. If it's too dry, add another pat of butter or a splash of olive oil.
When the roux is as light or dark as you like it, whisk in the Worcestershire and deglaze the pan with a little of the beer. Once you've gotten all the little bits off the bottom of the pan, pour in the rest of the beer.
It should thicken up pretty quickly. Go ahead and add in the broth, stock base, pepper, thyme, creole seasoning, tomato paste, and most of your parsley. Keep the rest of the parsley handy for a garnish - or you could chop up some scallions or chives.
I let the sauce simmer for a good half hour or more to reduce and give the flavors a chance to meld. While that was going on, I cooked up some white rice. For me, being Armenian, that means cooking it in chicken broth and butter, but however you like it is fine. I usually only make "white rice" for Asian food. You can refer to my pilaf post for the rice/butter/broth ratio if you want to go that route.
Just before your rice is finished, go ahead and stir your chicken into the sauce to heat through.
To plate, I packed the rice into a little prep bowl and inverted it onto the plate, then poured the chicken around it and topped it with my reserved parsley.
I had intended to also add some cayenne or other hot pepper, but when I tasted it, I realized the amount of Tony Chachere's I used was plenty spicy. We've got a Goldilocks thing going on in our house when it comes to how much heat everyone can take, so if your crew likes it hot, feel free to kick it up a notch. Also, if you are using a different spice blend, you might need salt. If you're using Tony Chachere's, the salt is included.