Louisiana holds a special place in my heart.
My first visit to the state was in the early 2000’s. My grandpa and parents and I drove down to Alexandria so we could meet some of my grandpa’s relatives. It was, as you say, love at first sight. And first bite, in my case.
I was smitten with the sweltering humidity and huge green pine trees that lined the pot-hole ridden roads. The thought of alligators swimming in the brown-speckled creek behind my cousin’s house excited me.
The next trip came with just my parents and I. We spent a summer vacation road tripping to all the best spots in the state. New Orleans, Thibideaux, and the country’s most haunted home (the Myrtles plantation) were all on the list. I was introduced to true Cajun cuisine throughout.
A dozen or so trips were in store later in life. My aunt moved to Monroe for a few years and we visited her often. Then, of course, Rob and I road tripped to NOLA to take our cruise out for our honeymoon.
I may not be Louisiana born-and-bred, but I consider myself and expert on all things Cajun cuisine. Whether it’s the crawfish pies in Natchitoches, to the po’boys right when you cross the Texas-Louisiana border, to the seafood steeped gumbo in NOLA—I’ve eaten it all. I’ve even made most of it, too.
One of my favorite recipes from the Cajun playbook is etouffee. A Cajun restaurant here in OKC makes some of the best crawfish etouffee I’ve ever tasted. The best of the best are made with some version of seafood. Etouffee is basically a dark brown stew that gets served on top of rice.
I made my own spin on the Creole classic this weekend. This one is vegetarian, though, because I wanted it to be different. The first part in making sure you’ve got a good etouffee is to get a deep, rich roux going. I went for the olive oil for this one, which I know is a big no-no in Creole cooking, but I wanted to lighten it up as much as possible.
Roux is the building block for most Cajun cuisine. It gets all those flavors going that you can build upon later. The next must-have for Cajun cooking: the holy trinity. I’m talking onion, green bell pepper, and celery. Celery is notably my archnemesis, so I make sure to process it really fine when I’m cooking. A quick pulse in the food processor is all you need.
Next: oyster mushrooms. Vegetarian vibes are high here, but the “seafood” portion is still in the name! Oyster mushrooms are meaty and a delicious substitute for actual meat.
My first bite into this etouffee and I knew. This was it. This was that Cajun taste I’ve been looking for.
I was transported to that muggy air, to those alligator-laden ponds, to the smell of deep-fried meat pies. This is Cajun cooking!
Oyster Mushroom Etouffee
A classic Cajun dish with a vegetarian spin.
- 3 TBS. olive oil
- 3 TBS. all-purpose flour
- 1 yellow onion, quartered
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 green bell pepper, cut into strips
- 2 ribs celery
- 1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained
- 2.5 cups vegetable broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 16 oz. oyster mushrooms, tough ends cut off
- 2 tsp. Creole seasoning
- 1 TBS. Old Bay seasoning
- Brown rice, for serving
- Place onion, garlic, bell pepper, and celery in a food processor. Pulse until veggies are chopped up fine. Meanwhile, in a large cast-iron skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, until roux is golden brown, about 4-5 minutes.
- Add minced veggies to skillet and stir. Cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add mushrooms, broth, diced tomatoes, bay leaf, Creole seasoning and Old Bay. Stir. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Discard bay leaf and serve over cooked brown rice.
Place onion, garlic, bell pepper, and celery in a food processor. Pulse until veggies are chopped up fine.
Meanwhile, in a large cast-iron skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, until roux is golden brown, about 4-5 minutes.
Add minced veggies to skillet and stir. Cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Add mushrooms, broth, diced tomatoes, bay leaf, Creole seasoning and Old Bay. Stir.
Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes.
Discard bay leaf and serve over cooked brown rice.