I have no idea where the craving came from, but for weeks, I’ve been hankering for a rich, spicy bowl of etouffée. If you’ve never heard of it before, etouffée is a Cajun/Creole dish from New Orleans that traditionally consists of seafood (usually crawfish) “smothered” in a rich, spicy gravy thickened with a butter-based roux.
So, um, unfortunately not such a vegan friendly meal. Given its focus on animal products, I should hate Cajun/Creole food, but I just can’t break up with it. New Orleans will always have a special place in my heart. It was there, during a trip with my parents in high school, that I first came to appreciate how local food can be a reflection of a place’s culture, history, and people. Etouffée is a perfect example of this. It gets its roux sauce-base from its French heritage, its use of paprika from the Spanish, oregano from the Italian, and crawfish and rice from its African and Native American roots, with the end result being 100% American.
Using as inspiration the adorable local cookbook that I picked up during my first trip there, I set out this evening to try to make a vegan adaptation of etouffée that would still capture the heart and soul of the dish. I didn’t want to use a processed fake seafood, so, after wracking my brain for natural alternatives, I decided on roasted cauliflower which has a meaty texture and soaks up flavors easily.
I went into developing this recipe with very low expectations, but the end result was so good I’m tempted to throw an off season Mardi Gras party just to have an excuse to show it off. My husband T, who is highly skeptical of cauliflower in general, told me not twice, but three times how much he enjoyed the meal. I know it’s not the most photogenic of dishes, but I promise you, it’s delicious.
Cauliflower Etouffee with Vegan Andouille
1 head of cauliflower
1 tablespoon (or less) olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay
1 (.13 gram) packet of saffron powder, divided
1 large pinch of sea salt
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon sherry
1 teaspoon sugar
2 Andouille-style seitan sausages, sliced (I made mine from scratch by adding cajun spice to this recipe and rolling the dough into tubes)
1 tablespoon vegan butter or oil of your choice
1 tablespoon flour
1 small white onion, chopped finely
1 small green pepper, chopped finely
2 teaspoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/4 teaspoon (or more) paprika
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1 splash Lousiana Hot Sauce
- Preheat over to 375F.
- Chop cauliflower into bite size florets. Toss with enough olive oil to coat, and season with Old Bay, a pinch of the saffron powder, and salt. Roast on a cookie sheet for about 45 minutes, checking and stirring every 15 minutes, until all pieces are well-browned.
- While the cauliflower is roasting, heat the vegetable broth, sherry, a pinch of saffron, and sugar and bring to a simmer. (I use the sugar to evoke the natural sweetness of seafood).
- Heat a splash of olive oil in a large Dutch oven and brown sausage slices, then remove from pan and set aside.
- Make roux in same pot: Melt butter in a large Dutch oven, scraping up any browned bits of sausage stuck to the bottom of the pan. Stir in flour gradually until the consistency of gravy, adding a touch more butter if it appears too thick. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the color of butterscotch. (If you’ve never made a roux before, see here for more detailed instructions.)
- Stir the pepper and onion into the roux and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Cook until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in tomato paste and season with the rest of the saffron packet, nutritional yeast, and remaining spices.
- Add warm broth gradually by the ladle, stirring well until incorporated.
- Bring mixture to a simmer, being careful not to allow it to boil. Simmer for at least 15 minutes until the peppers are soft, the onions are no longer visible, and the gravy is thick.
- Stir in roasted cauliflower and sausage. Simmer for an additional 10 minutes, allowing the cauliflower time to soak up the gravy.