Growing up as a born and bred yankee, I never ate crawfish or even heard of it as a food item.  Frankly, the thought of it was somewhat unappetizing and, if you’ve ever seen a live crawfish, you will know that the look of it is no more appetizing than the thought.  However, if said crawfish is de-shelled, de-veined, cooked and removed from anything resembling the original organism, it tastes much like lobster and is in fact quite tasty.  I mentioned in an earlier post that there is a restaurant in Indianapolis called Yats, where Dr. Matthews and I enjoyed many a cajun-creole dish, our favorite of which (and their signature) is chili cheese étouffée with crawfish.  Not chili cheese as in the cheese you get on nachos at sporting events, but rather a spicy cheddar goodness.  I made this recipe once before, with good results, and thought I’d give it another go this weekend.

Before I get to the recipe, though, I wanted to briefly share my latest joy in kitchen accessories (no, this is not a paid advertisement – though I wish it were!).  For Valentine’s Day, Dr. Matthews got me a gift card for Williams Sonoma.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, Williams Sonoma offers a variety of high-end kitchen gadgetry and accessories.  The products offered are on the pricey side, but, are also high in quality and, for a cook who has melted one of her measuring spoons and broken the handle off of another, a nice set of all-clad, stainless-steel measuring cups and spoons were right up my alley!

Aren't they beautiful?

Aren’t they beautiful?

These babies will probably last me a lifetime.  Also, *hint, hint* this blogger has a major birthday coming up in June (hello 3-0!) and will be accepting (but not expecting) any Williams Sonoma gift cards thrown her way 🙂

Back to the main event.  This recipe calls for several ingredients, but they are all fairly easy to procure, with the exception of the crawfish.  I was able to find some at a local seafood store, but am not sure how accessible crawfish is to the non-coastal readers out there (I’d love to hear some feedback on that).  You can also use chicken, if you can’t find/don’t like/can’t eat/are afraid of crawfish.

There is quite a bit of chopping and dicing, and you have to make a roux, which some find tricky upon first try.  For the chopping and dicing, I recommend a glass of wine (red is my favorite for cooking) and Pandora salsa radio.  In fact, for any of you out there who don’t think you enjoy cooking (which I would imagine is very few, as you are reading a cooking blog, after all), or might not be in the mood for cooking, I highly recommend you pour yourself a generous glass of wine, turn up whatever tunes most suit you, and get into your groove.  Pretty sure I learned this from my mama.

I was inspired to do a little research on what exactly étouffée is, and learned here that it “is a dish found in both Cajun and Creole cuisine typically served with shellfish over rice.  The dish employs a technique known as smothering, a popular method of cooking in the Cajun areas of southwest Louisiana. Étouffée is most popular in New Orleans and in the Acadiana area of the southernmost half of Louisiana as well as a popular dish in the coastal counties of Mississippi.  In French, the word “étouffée” (borrowed into English as “stuffed” or “stifled”) means, literally, “smothered” or “suffocated”, from the verb “étouffer.”

Yats Chili Cheese Étouffée with Crawfish


1 stick of butter
½ c. flour
1 c. chopped green onions
1 c. diced celery
1 c. diced bell peppers (I used red)
1 c. diced onions
2 t. minced garlic
1 c. Rotel Original diced tomatoes (I drained mine)
½ t. dried thyme
1 T. tomato paste
1 t. dried basil
¼ t. black pepper
¼ t. white pepper
¼ t. cayenne pepper
3 c. chicken stock
3 c. shredded aged cheddar

(I increased by at least an extra cup. Don’t worry- it’s not healthy to begin with 😉 )

8 oz. half and half or heavy cream (I used half and half)
1 t. chili powder
pinch ground coriander
pinch ground cumin
pinch ground cloves
dash Leas and Perrins Worcestershire sauce (I used whatever off-brand I had)
Dash Tabasco sauce (all I had was Tapatío so I used it)
1 lb cooked crawfish, shrimp and/or chicken

(we found that the chunks of crawfish that came in the package were a bit large for our liking, so will probably chop them up next time)

Cooked white rice
Not featured: flour

Not featured: flour


Make a roux by heating the butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat then blending in the flour, constantly stirring and scraping the bottom of the skillet. (I used a wooden spoon with a flat bottom.)  Cook until the roux is golden color.  (I don’t think I did this long enough – the above wikipedia site said about 20 minutes for a blond roux.)
Add the green onions, celery, bell peppers, onions, garlic and tomatoes and cook until the onions have browned
My prepped veggies

My prepped veggies

Add the thyme, tomato paste, basil and peppers (black, white, and cayenne)
Add the stock, bring to a boil and simmer until the mixture becomes thick (I don’t think I did this long enough, either – the Yats version is quite thick and mine did not turn out thick enough to truly emulate it.)
Add the cheese, half and half, chili powder, coriander, cumin, cloves, Lea and Perrins and Tabasco and stir until the cheese and half and half are blended in well (I felt it also needed a couple dashes of salt.)
Gently stir in the chicken (or shrimp or crawfish) and serve with white rice.
Serves 6-8
Chili Cheese Étouffée with Crawfish

Yats serves it with this delicious, crispy, buttered bread.  I did that last time and really wish I’d done it this time, too!

Chili Cheese Étouffée with Crawfish