Chili-Cheese Etouffée

This was our recipe of choice for Family Vacay 2010, and the photographs below were taken during that marvelous week. My husband and I were in charge of feeding a dozen people Thursday night, and this dish was the obvious pick. It’s an adapted version of a dish served at Yat’s, a Cajun restaurant in Bloomington. This recipe makes such a large pot that there were ample leftovers the next day–I estimate the batch we made would have fed about 16 people; the recipe below is for 8-10 so that you don’t have Etouffée coming out of your ears. Before you start cutting down the recipe even more though, please consider this: it’s so amazing that even if you’re just feeding 2 or 3, you can freeze the rest and thus ensure that when the craving hits you again (and it will hit you hard) it is immediately on hand.

This is probably the most delicious recipe on this blog to date. The Mush is really good . . . the caramelized salmon is also superb . . . but this recipe is crowd-friendly and I guarantee everyone will love it. Unless they’re lactose and gluten intolerant, in which case you need to make a separate little stirfry for them.

Poor Luke. I hope he doesn’t know what he’s missing.

This recipe is so good that:

1. My 14-year-old cousin Brianna adored it. She normally only eats Chicken Noodle Soup and string cheese, so this is saying a lot.

2. Both my sister Heidi and I had this dish served at our weddings. Yup.

Before we jump in, let’s get in the mood for a hot stew-like concoction by examining pictures of the rainy day on the lake.

I deserted any pretense of subtlety and electrified the blue in this water using a fun tool in Photoshop: “Selective Color.” If you own Photoshop but haven’t used it, get with the plan, Stan.

Mmmm, I’m getting hungrier by the minute.

One more explanation and then I promise we’ll get to the good stuff. The step-by-step pictures. You see, I had just changed my lens to my zoom lens in order to capture the raindrops on the lake from a safe distance. Then I came back to the main house to cook. If you remember the post about our lodgings during Family Vacay 2010 (click here to read), you’ll recall that I was staying in a separate smaller cabin, where my other lens was housed. And I was not going back out into the rain to change that lens, golldarnheckanannywhillikins. Therefore, all these pictures were taken with a zoom lens that required me to be very far away from the pot I was attempting to photograph, which proved to be quite awkward. Do I regret my choice? If I say yes, my Mom might say “I told you so,” so I’ll stick by it. But that’s why the pictures are a little . . . a little not so awesome. But the food was!

Now that I’ve got you on board with how amazing this is going to be, let’s begin. There is a long list of ingredients, but most of that list is just composed of spices, plus you really just toss everything into a pot anyway. It’s not difficult—please trust me. To prove this I will walk you through it step by step.


(Serves 8-10)

1 1/2 sticks butter

3/4 cups flour

1 bunch chopped green onions

2 stalks celery

1 large onion

1 red bell pepper

1 green bell pepper (I added a yellow one too)

6 cloves garlic

1-14.5 oz can diced tomatoes

½ tsp dried thyme

1 TBS tomato paste

1 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp white pepper

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp chili powder

Pinch ground coriander

Pinch ground cumin

Pinch ground cloves

Dash Worcestershire sauceDash Tabasco sauce

1/4 c dry sherry

3 cups chicken stock

3 cups shredded aged cheddar

8 oz heavy whipping cream

4 chicken breasts

Cooked white rice, to serve

First, chop all your stuff: the celery, peppers, onions, and garlic. You can chop up your chicken now as well if you feel like it, though it doesn’t go in until the end.

Shred your aged cheddar–please make the extra investment and buy some good quality aged cheddar, because this is a key flavor and I promise it will make a big difference.

Melt the butter in a large, large pot. When it’s melted, add the flour. Don’t be like me and take a hideous blurry picture because you’re too lazy to change your lens.

Stir over medium heat to create what’s called a roux. Keep it cooking until it gets to be a golden brown and releases a nutty scent. This took me about 10 minutes. Check out the change in color from the pale yellow above to the rich golden hue below:

Add the chopped green onions, onion, garlic, bell peppers, and celery.

And we’re done! Doesn’t it look appetizing?

Just kidding! Cook those veggies about 6 minutes, until softened.

Add the tomato paste and all the spices. Cook for another few minutes, stirring to combine.

Add the can of diced tomatoes. Cook for another few minutes.

Add the Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, dry sherry, and chicken stock.

Bring ‘er to a boil, then lower the heat and let it simmer for a good 30 minutes. It should thicken a good bit–that’s the magic of the roux happening.

Add the cheese, heavy whipping cream, and chicken. Simmer over low heat until the chicken is cooked through, about 6-7 minutes.

Mmmm. . . raw chicken floating in a stew pot. Give ‘er a stir and submerge that pink uncooked flesh, for the sake of decency.

If it’s not quite thick enough, create a cornstarch/water slurry and add that in. Or add more cheese. Or something. Looks about ready to me . . .

Serve it over white rice, and garnish with green onions and an extra drizzle of dry sherry. I guarantee you will go back for more.



The pieces of chicken are soooo tender . . . sooo flavorful . . .

Now you just have to get a wonderful father and hot husband to do the dishes, and your evening will have been perfection.

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16 Responses to Chili-Cheese Etouffée

  1. Sarah says:

    this looks so good!

  2. Kay Heritage says:

    This looks great, Jenna!
    I love your photos! I am still trying to learn to keep things sharply focused. I have Nikon D3000 and am not so happy with it. May be it is not happy with me!
    Love your recipe and how you make the roux to thicken and flavor. I do the same!

    • Jenna says:

      Thank you Kay! My focus in the shots for this recipe isn’t great, and they’re a little grainy . . . I really should have changed out my lens. I think the photos on your site are great, and very well focused. Plus, your composition is excellent–I feel like I have a lot to learn!

  3. Jenna–this looks so good…and I’m a vegetarian! I would love to experiment with this recipe and maybe try it with white beans instead of chicken?

    I’m completely with you on cooking in bulk, too–I rarely cut recipes down smaller, because I love freezing and using the leftovers for another time.

    Hope you’re having a good week!

  4. Erin says:

    I. am. salivating! mmmm….. I’m definitely getting the stuff to make this when I’m at the store tomorrow. :D

  5. You know what I love? That this homey, comforting dish made it onto the menu of both of your weddings. If that isn’t an endorsement, I don’t know what is.

    Thanks for visiting me–I’ll be popping by here often. Looks like I can use some photography tips from you!

  6. Corinne says:

    That looks so good! I’m another vegetarian, and I’m thinking of ways to bulk it up in a non chicken way :) They make these vegetarian crumble things (think ground beef, but full of veggie stuff and soy maybe?) and that might work too.
    (thank you for stopping by today :) )

  7. That looks amazing! All that cheese, chicken and everything else looks perfect :)

  8. katie o. says:

    Talk about great pictures! Love this recipe. This one is going in the must try category .

  9. erica says:

    People of the world wide web (and all people, for that matter): This stuff is so good that it will have you shouting “hallelujah” and slapping your mama. (Here is no reason why you shouldn’ scrap any silly menu plans you had and make this now.

  10. claire says:

    you are absurd! I just got your comment about photos and obviously the PRACTICE paid off bc you have amazing pictures! they are gorgeous!

  11. Twinky says:

    OK,OK, you will have observed that I did NOT say “I told you so”, and it’s because the pictures are still wonderful!! Someone (you and wasn’t there someone else?) had VERY steady hands. I actually like the blur of the action shots: the spoon whizzing around as the roux is stirred, and it LOOKS like it is stirring. SO! Good job!!

  12. Yum! Thank you for bringing this one to my attention – I will be adding this to my ‘must-try’ list!

  13. Oh, your etouffe looks like a masterpiece! I haven’t had it in so long. What a great dish for fall–will make!

  14. I’m making this for dinner this week. I can’t wait to try it!

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