Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holiday Entertaining at The Majestic

I like to do things around Christmas that remind me of home like cooking Cajun classics such as Gumbo and Crawfish Creole.  These familiar flavors bring me closer to my family who is so far away and also bring back some fond memories of lavish Christmas Eve gatherings filled with food, music, and lots and lots of presents.  Because I work in the hospitality industry, I will be unable to spend time with my family, so this Christmas I will be cooking for friends in the same boat as me.  I'm hosting a small gathering at The Majestic and I couldn't be happier to entertain my "work family" on my favorite holiday of the year. Today, I'm preparing a menu of roasted turkey with Dot's Cranberry Sauce and Mustard/Pesto Mayo as well as the Cajun classic, Shrimp Étoufée.

Étoufée literally means smothered, and that's more or less the cooking technique used. Essentially it's a stew thickened with a dark roux and the Cajun trinity, onion, celery, and green bell pepper.  The savory flavor of the roux against the sweet shrimp is a fantastic combination that never gets old.  I'll be serving it up with mulled wine and my favorite Cava, Segura Viudas Brut Reserva, from magnum bottles.  It should be a Christmas to remember - or forget depending on how "cheerful" we become!

Gregoire's Shrimp Étoufée

3 pounds raw shrimp in the shell
1/2 bottle dry vermouth
1 large bulb fennel, roughly chopped
1 onion quartered
2 ribs celery, roughly chopped
6 to 8 ribs of celery, diced
4 large yellow onions, diced
4 large green bell peppers, diced
8 to 10 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup AP flour
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
2 large cans of crushed tomatoes
1 small can of tomato paste
4 or 5 bay leaves
Cayenne Pepper
  1. Combine roughly chopped onion, fennel, and celery with vermouth and enough water to fill your pot about 3/4 full.  Salt liberally and add a bay leaf.  Bring the liquid to a simmer and add the shrimp.  Remove shrimp after they have cooked completely - this will take about twenty minutes if you keep the flame low enough.  Do not let the liquid get too hot because the shrimp will get tough while they cook otherwise.  Peel the shrimp and return the shells to the liquid to simmer.  Set shrimp aside for later use.
  2. Meanwhile, combine flour and oil in a large cast iron Dutch oven.  Stir together continually over medium high heat until the roux is mahogany in color.
  3. Add the remaining bay leaves, diced vegetables, and garlic to the roux and cook them over medium heat until they are tender and the onions have become translucent.
  4. Strain the poaching liquid into the roux/vegetable mixture and bring to a boil.  This should form a thick "gravy."
  5. Add tomato paste, and canned tomatoes.
  6. Adjust to desired consistency with water and correct seasoning with salt, pepper, and Cayenne.
  7. Return the Shrimp to the étoufée just before serving and heat through.
  8. Serve over steamed rice and garnish with chopped parsley or scallions.
I'd love to hear about your holiday family holiday traditions and recipes.  Please leave a comment and share your recipes with me below.


  1. Still up in the air what we'll be having for dinner, but breakfast will be the Jaques family traditional country ham with redeye gravy, grits, and scrambled eggs. The ham should arrive tomorrow from TN!

  2. I love the sounds of that breakfast! Do you make your redeye gravy with coffee?

  3. Grandma made red eye gravy and also tomato gravy for PawPaw morning biscuits! I have never used fennel in etoufee. Let me know how it turns out. You will be missed at G and J's Julia Child Christmas eve dinner. The ladies are wearing pearls and the main dish will be Beef Bourginon. We are also each wearing a paper wreath for the party. A new tradition. Who knew G would become such a gourmet?

  4. i'm only putting the fennel in the poaching liquid for a little extra flavor - i don't think the cajuns would object if they had lived in a area where fennel grew.