Vegan Take on Southern Classic: Mushroom Étoufée
Étoufée is a classic Cajun and creole dish. “Étoufée” translates roughly to “smothered.”
Traditionally, Étoufées are made with shrimp or crawfish but faced, one day, with an abundance of chanterelle mushrooms and some unexpected vegetarians at my table, I thought I’d try a vegetarian version, replacing the shellfish entirely with cleaned and sliced chanterelles. Despite the regional wrongness — a classic Southern US favorite made with mushrooms most often found in the rainforest — the dish was a big success.
Another replacement: classically, where I’ve indicated olive oil, the Cajun and creole versions would use butter. I like the foresty flavor the olive oil adds, plus that simple swap makes this dish not only vegetarian, but completely vegan. However the dish works equally well — and is perhaps even a little richer — when made with butter.
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil or butter or a combination of both
1/4 all purpose or unbleached flour
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 cup finely chopped bell pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup diced tomatoes, fresh or canned
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon black Ppepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 teasp dried thyme
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
2 cups vegetable or mushroom stock
1 tablespoon hot sauce
4 cups fresh sliced chanterelles or 2 cups dried mushrooms (any other type of mushroom would work, too. But chantrelles give the stew a beautiful, golden color.)
If using dried mushrooms, start by adding boiling water to mushrooms to cover. Cover with lid and set aside for at least one hour.
Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a heavy bottom pot over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until the roux turns a dark golden color, between 15 and 20 minutes. (Cajun Roux!) Add onion, celery and bell pepper and continue to whisk until the vegetables start to soften. Add garlic, paprika, black pepper, cayenne, thyme, basil and oregano and continue to whisk for a further two minutes. Still whisking, add the tomatoes and stir. When the liquid has been absorbed, add the stock, a little at a time, until it as all incorporated. Finally add the mushrooms, reduce heat, cover with a tight-fitting lid and simmer 20 minutes.
You should now have a thick, rich-looking stew. If it seems too thick, add a bit more liquid: stock, if you still have some, or even a bit of water, a 1/4 cup at a time. If it’s too thin, leave the lid off, raise the heat slightly and stir while the sauce thickens.
Serve over long-grained white rice for a more traditional Étoufée, or wild rice or roasted vegetables for a more 20th Century approach.