The Lenten season here in Louisiana has a curious effect on our diets – meat is not supposed to be eaten, which means that certain recipes that normally aren’t used year round are cooked from Mardi Gras to Easter. Here is a selected historic excerpt written by Thomas James Robert from The Cabin Cook Book on stews, stewing, fricassee, and ragout, as well as a recipe for Crawfish or Shrimp Stew:
~~~~ Stews – Stewing – Fricassee – Ragout ~~~~
Very much like Sauce Piquant, a stew can incorporate almost any ingredient you can imagine, and many you could never think of. Consider stews of: turnip, carrot, potato, turtle, lamb, chicken, squirrel, rabbit, shrimp, or crawfish, and one of my father’s favorites, “pig tail”. Yes, a stew made from the tails of pigs we were slaughtering for the winter larder. Years ago, Noah and I ate at a restaurant in Quebec named Aux queues de Cochon (At the Pig’s Tail), where pigtail stew was on the menu.
Cooking by stewing must have started just the next day after the first person made a pot capable of being heated over a hot fire. Without a pot the food juices would evaporate as the food was heated over the open flame, so the POT allowed the cook to add liquid and retain the juices and produce a much tastier dish.
Again, like the sauce piquant, hundreds of recipes for stews exist, but the basic concept is common to all. The principle difference between the sauce piquant and the stews is the incorporation of tomatoes into the sauce piquant but none is used in the stews. Other than this, the approach is similar; browning the meats, making a roux, cooking the trinity, adding the necessary stock and simmering the dish for a long time.
One of the stews my mother made which my uncle Rene and my cousin Cecil loved (but not my favorite) was TRIPE STEW. Tripe is the stomach of the hog, as I’m sure you know.
During the observance of Lent in the Catholic Church, no meat was eaten, so stews made only from vegetables were common. My aunt Therese often cooked these stews and added turtle eggs to the dish. The eggs were gathered by her sons along the levee of the Mississippi River where the turtles laid their eggs. The eggs were very easy to locate since the levee was covered with grass and the mamma turtle had to scrape away the grass to make a hole to lay her eggs, so the bare spots were easy to find.
~~~ Crawfish or Shrimp Stew – With Potatoes ~~~
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup Flour
1 med. White onion finely chopped
1 med. Red potato in 1/2″ dice
12-16 oz. Shrimp or crawfish
1/2 cup Green onions finely cut
2 tbsp Parsley chopped
Hot water as needed
Salt and Cayenne Pepper as desired
1. Cook a light brown roux and add the onion and fry till softened
2. Add the diced potato and fry 5 minutes stirring often (try to leave the potato cubes whole while stirring)
3. Add the shrimp or crawfish and cook 5 minutes
4. Season with salt and cayenne to taste
5. Stir in the green onions and cook just a bit more
6. Slowly stir in the hot water as needed for a gravy consistency you like
7. Add the parsley and simmer for 15 minutes
Serve over white rice. Serves 6-8