20 February, 2012

Culinary Cogitations: Lent & Meatless Meals

Lent doesn't have to mean PB&J sandwiches and Tuna Rice casserole, although I've eaten more than my fair share of those standard in my day. And I draw the line at fish sticks!

According to my parish priest - a bit of a hardliner, the rules are as follows:
  •  Every person 14 years of age or older must abstain from meat (and items made with meat) on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all the Fridays of Lent.
  • Every person between the age of 18 and 60 must fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
  • Every person 14 years of age or older must abstain from meat (and items made with meat) on all other Fridays of the year, unless he or she substitutes some other form of penance for abstinence.
It's that last one  -- the other form of penance -- that gives us an out.  I've often wondered if daily exercise counts as penance??? Personally,  I've never considered abstaining from meat a hardship, it's the perfect opportunity to experiment with seafood and vegetarian fare.  And here's an easy recipe to start you off right.

Ash Wednesday Shrimp Etouffee
  •  1 stick unsalted butter 
  • 2 Tbsp  all-purpose flour 
  • 1 cup yellow onions, chopped 
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped 
  • 1/2 cup green bell peppers, chopped 
  • 1/4 cup green onions, chopped 
  • 1 Tbsp garlic, minced 
  • 2 bay leaves 
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt 
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne 
  • 2 Tbsp dry sherry 
  • 1 1/2 cups shrimp stock (substitute chicken stock if you don't have shells to make shrimp stock) 
  • 1 lb  fresh or defrosted shrimp , preferably unpeeled
  • 1/2 cup corn 
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice 
  • 3 Tbsp fresh parsley leaves, chopped , plus more for garnish 
  •    Cooked long grain white rice, as accompaniment 
For the shrimp stock (if using):
  • 3 cups (or more) raw shrimp shells and tails 
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped 
  • 1 small carrot, coarsely chopped 
  • 1/2 medium celery stalk 
  • 6 cups water 
  • 1 cup white wine 
  • 1 medium fresh tomato, or 1/2 cup canned plum tomatoes 
  • 1 bay leaf 
Make the stock (if using): Peel the shrimp and remove tails. In a large saucepan over high heat, heat the oil until almost smoking and saute the shrimp shells and tails, onion, carrot and celery for 5 minutes, stirring. Add the water, wine, tomato and bay leaf. Reduce to medium, partly cover, and simmer 40 minutes.

Strain though cheesecloth or a fine strainer.

Make the etouffee: In a large heavy pot (cast iron, if you have one), melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the flour and cook. Using a spatula, stir the roux scraping the entire bottom of the pot every time. Using a spatula allows you to move all of the mixture around and you don't have to make more than a few passes to do it. Stir the mixture every 15 seconds or so. The roux will bubble at first then will get smooth as it cooks. WARNING: Don't be tempted to walk away and do something else, if the roux burns at any point during the process, it's trash. Cook until you have a blonde roux, the colour of light peanut butter. Add the onions, celery, bell peppers, green onions, garlic, bay leaves, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the sherry and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, add corn, and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice and shrimp and cook until shrimp are no longer translucent (about 2 minutes depending on size).

Stir in the parsley and remove from the heat.

Adjust the seasoning, to taste. Serve over rice, garnished with additional parsley.

Note: Anytime you have shrimp, just put the raw shells in a zipper bag in the freezer until you have enough to make stock.  The stock can be frozen for several weeks.

Got a favourite meatless recipe?  Please share!


  1. In Delaware Muscrat is considerd fish. I never understood that. I would consider having to eat muskrat a penance though.

  2. How about crab meat stuffed portobellos