Anytime I can bring the flavors of Louisiana into my kitchen, I’m happy. Many traditional dishes are off-limits to a vegetarian or vegan, but the smart use of spices and other ingredients can bring them back within reach.
This is just what Jenné Claiborne does so beautifully in her new book, Sweet Potato Soul (Harmony Books, 2018). A vegan chef, cooking instructor, blogger and YouTube star, Claiborne brings Southern flair – in the form of “smoke, sugar, spice and soul,” as her book’s subtitle puts it – to plant-based dishes. That means shredded sweet potatoes and pecans in her granola, coconut three ways (oil, milk and sugar) in her peach cobbler and oyster mushrooms in her étouffée.
It was that last dish I rushed to make because I love the spicy sauce of an étouffée, which usually features crawfish or shrimp. The idea to use oyster mushrooms, with their luscious texture, immediately made sense.
She sticks to tradition in the ways that matter most – starting with a roux and the “trinity” of onion, bell pepper and celery, and including a good dose of Creole seasoning. I confess to one shortcut: Claiborne includes her own recipe for the spice blend, and I have no doubt it’s great given the 10 ingredients she calls for, but I always have a shaker of good old Tony Chachere’s in the house, so a dash of that went in instead. (Hint: If you are concerned about your sodium intake, you might want to go for one of the lower-salt versions available, or make your own.)
I knew it was the real deal when my fiance, whose people come from Louisiana, took one bite and put down his spoon – so he could take a photo.
Oyster Mushroom Étouffée
Servings: 8 (makes about 8 cups)
If you want to reduce the level of sodium in this dish, use a reduced-salt Creole seasoning, such as Tony Chachere’s Light or No-Salt brand. If you use a no-salt version, you might want to add a little sea salt, as needed, when finishing the dish.Ingredients:3 tablespoons grapeseed or coconut oil3 tablespoons flour1 small yellow onion, diced2 cloves garlic, minced1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced2 ribs celery, dicedOne 14-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted, plus their juices2½ cups no-salt-added vegetable broth, store-bought or homemade1 bay leaf1 teaspoon dulse seaweed flakes (optional)2 teaspoons Creole seasoning, such as Tony Chachere’s, or more as needed (see headnote)1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning1 pound fresh oyster mushrooms (tough stems trimmed), coarsely chopped2 cups cooked brown rice1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving½ cup chopped fresh parsley, for garnishMethod:Heat a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Pour in the oil, and once it shimmers, sprinkle in the flour. Cook, stirring, until the mixture turns golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes.
Stir in the onion, garlic, bell pepper and celery. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables start to become tender, 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and their juices, the broth, bay leaf, dulse, if using, the Creole and Old Bay seasonings. Add the mushrooms, then increase the heat to medium-high; once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium or medium-low so the liquid is gently bubbling. Cook until the mushrooms become tender, about 20 minutes. Discard the bay leaf.
Taste, and add more Creole seasoning, as needed. Serve over brown rice with a squeeze of lemon juice, and garnish with parsley.
Nutrition: Per serving: 150 calories, 4 g protein, 23 g carbohydrates, 6 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 690 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 5 g sugar
Source: Adapted from Sweet Potato Soul: 100 Easy Vegan Recipes for the Southern Flavors of Smoke, Sugar, Spice, and Soul, by Jenné Claiborne (Harmony Books, 2018).