E is for Étouffée 

Étouffée (pronounced ay-too-fay) is a popular dish in the Creole cuisine of Luisiana and especially New Orleans. Creole cuisine combines European, African and native American traditions and is one of the distinctive styles of cooking in the United States.

The word étouffée means ‘smothered’ in French. Smothering is a process of cooking anything in its own juices with minimum addition of extra liquid. This is a commonly used technique in Creole cooking.

The flavor base for an étouffée is the ‘holy trinity’ of Creole (and Cajun, a similar cuisine, also developed in Louisiana) cooking: onion, celery and green pepper. Diced into uniform size, they are sautéed in butter to get a dish started. Sometimes the trinity is enhanced with garlic, parsley, or shallots. 

They form the base for other Creole-Cajun dishes like jambalaya and gumbo as well.

Étouffée can be made using different shellfish, though crawfish which are specific to Louisiana, are most often used. However, shrimp is an equally good replacement when crawfish are not available.

There are differences of opinion regarding the addition of tomatoes in an étouffée. Also, about roux. Even when there is agreement on the inclusion of roux, opinion differs as to do so at the beginning or towards the end. This version includes tomatoes and a roux, introduced half way through the recipe.

Creole seasoning elegantly blends an array of flavors to come up with a perfectly balanced spice mix. Make this a staple in your spice cabinet, as you can use it for fish, chicken or vegetables.

Étouffée is mostly served with cooked white rice, but you can try mashed potatoes as well.

To make the Creole seasoning, mix together: 2 tbsp paprika, 1 tbsp onion powder, 1 tbsp garlic powder, 1 tbsp dried thyme, 1 tbsp dried oregano, 1 tbsp black pepper, 1 teaspoon cayenne, and 1 teaspoon salt.

E is for Étouffée 

Difficulty:BeginnerServings:4 servings



  1. Heat a pan over medium heat and add the butter.
  2. Add the onions, celery and back pepper. Cook till the onions turn transparent.
  3. Add the garlic and stir into the mix for 1 minute.
  4. Sprinkle the flour over the ingredients in the pan and stir well. Continue to cook for about three more minutes.
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan.
  6. Add the stock, Creole seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste. Continue to stir and cook till the liquid thickens. Simmer for 5 more minutes.
  7. Add the shrimp and continue to cook till the shrimp is fully cooked and turns pink, for another 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning if required.
Keywords:Creole, Etouffee, Seafood, Shrimp, Louisiana

Blackened Tilapia – a page from a Creole Cookbook

Originating in Louisiana, the Creole style of cooking combines the European cooking methodologies with the local American ingredients. Though it has influences of Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian cuisines, the major inspiration comes from the French. The blend of classical European cooking styles with new ingredients found in the New World gave rise to a very rich and flavourful cuisine.


Also, as it is centered around the bayou region of Louisiana, Creole cooking has a strong focus on fish and shell fish, which makes it even more attractive.

The first Creole cookbook in English was La Cuisine Creole, published in 1885, which is available from Amazon in printed and Kindle editions. In addition to recipes, the books provides information on the background and development of the cuisine as well.


Jambalaya, Gumbo, Etouffee, Bananas Foster… the signature dishes of the region are many. And just the memories of them are enough to induce drooling.

With its flavour combinations that lean towards the spicy, it was love at first taste for me!

And watching Emeril Lagasse on Food Network TV made it easy to kick it up a notch too! In fact, his ‘Louisiana Real and Rustic’ is my go-to reference for Creole cooking. Though the other day, when I wanted to make blackened tilapia, I did not have to refer to any book; I have made it so many times!
Blackened fish, is a quintessential Creole dish, very easy to do, usually made with catfish. But you can attempt it with any firm white fleshed fish. This time, I made it with tilapia fillets.


The key part of the dish is the spice rub – a combination of onion powder, garlic powder, paprika and other herbs.


I have tried different spice combinations, but the one that worked to perfection for me has an wee bit of clove powder in it which adds a bit of extra flavour. (See recipe below.)


You need to let the fish sit for at least 30 minutes, up to an hour, after applying the rub. And totally against the traditional method, where the fish is fried at high heat, I baked it on an aluminium foil lined baking sheet.


It couldn’t have been better! Flaky, spicy, moist fish, done in 15 minutes!



Blackened Tilapia – a page from a Creole Cookbook
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • ½ tsp clove powder
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 tilapia fillets
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  1. Mix together thoroughly well all the spices and dried herbs, with the salt. You can vary the proportion of paprika and red chilli powder to adjust the heat to your preference.
  2. Wash and dry the tilapia fillets.
  3. Apply the spice rub on both sides of the tilapia fillets and keep aside for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit.
  5. Line a baking sheet with foil. Brush the foil with a teaspoon of olive oil.
  6. Lay the fillets on a foil, without overlapping.
  7. Place on the middle rack of the oven and cook for 15 minutes.
  8. Gently test with a fork. If the fish begins to flake, it is done.
  9. Serve with brown rice and vegetables.