Mushroom Etouffee, almost like the Piccadilly. Serve with fried eggplant for more yum!
When I was growing up in Louisiana, Fridays were reserved for the Piccadilly. That's the day they served shrimp etouffee, my grandmother's favorite. So every Friday morning we'd go pick up MeeMaw and the aunts and take them to the Piccadilly, where, being little old Southern ladies, they'd stick with a half order of etouffee. (They pronounced it the North Louisiana way: ETafay.)
My job was to help them out of the car and inside while my mom parked the Buick, then we'd make our way through the cafeteria line. At the end, a black lady would appear to help my grandmother and the aunts with their trays. This was the Deep South in the seventies, where white ladies ate like birds and black ladies carried their trays.
Strangely, none of them ever thought to make etouffee at home—it belonged exclusively in the realm of the Piccadilly, never our kitchen table.
Things haven't changed too much. My mom still loves the etouffee at the Piccadilly, even though they make it with crawfish now, which is cheaper. For years, whenever I went home, I'd take her to the Piccadilly, the way she took my grandmother, although now they've got handicapped parking for little old ladies.
So it was with no small amount of trepidation I attempted to make etouffee, not only at home in my kitchen but without a single crustacean. Mushrooms take the place of the seafood in my version, but it loses none of the rich Creole taste of the Piccadilly dish. Creole dishes, like etouffee, are more uptown than Cajun dishes, like gumbo. But they're all good, and I'm glad I can still enjoy them in their vegetarian incarnation. Made with mushroom stock and three kinds of mushrooms, it's every bit as rich and satisfying as its seafood-based cousin.
Now if only the Piccadilly served Mushroom Etouffee...
5 medium-sized portobella mushrooms, gills removed
1 cup sliced cup mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms
olive oil (about 1/4 cup) for sautéing the mushrooms
5 tablespoons olive oil
5 tablespoons flour
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 celery stalks, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon sage
dash of dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
freshly ground black pepper
2 cups mushroom stock
2 heaping tablespoons non-hydrogenated margarine
2 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup dry red sherry
chopped parsley, for garnish
Make a mushroom stock with the dried porcini: Pour 2 cups boiling water over porcini, let sit for 20 minutes.
Slice portobellos in half and scrape the gills out with a knife, then slice into further pieces. If the portobellos are large, cut each slice in half again so that they are approximately the size of shrimp. Sauté portobellas in olive oil over high heat. After a few minutes add sliced cup mushrooms. Continue to sauté over high heat, adding more olive oil if necessary, about 5 - 7 minutes in total, until mushrooms are seared and dry. They should be a golden brown color. Set aside.
Make the roux: Heat oil over medium to high heat. Stir in flour and continue stirring vigourously, about 15 minutes, until the mixture is a dark reddish tan. Add vegetables (not mushrooms) and lower heat. Stir until vegetables begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add seasonings and stir.
Pour in stock. Add margarine, tomato paste, and sherry. Return to a simmer and add mushrooms, plus as many of the rehydrated porcini as you wish. Simmer over low heat for another 10 minutes. (If the sauce is too thick, thin with more sherry.)
Serve over rice with parsley to garnish.
Notes on ingredients: Cup mushrooms are the white button mushrooms that are found everywhere. In the supermarket, I mean. Porcini are available dried, pretty much everywhere. If you don't want to go to the trouble, use prepared mushroom stock and just add more portobello or cup mushrooms. Likewise, if you don't want to bother with all the seasonings, use a spoonful of Tony's plus the dried herbs. I use converted rice in Cajun and Creole dishes, such as Uncle Ben's. If you wish, use brown rice, but it won't taste like the Piccadilly's.