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Weeknight Supper: Smoky Shrimp Etoufee

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A healthy shrimp recipe ready in only 30 minutes!

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Shrimp have a season. We’ll get to that quick and easy weeknight recipe in just a sec, but first, I want to chat a bit about how shrimp gets to on your plate — and a little moonlight magic. We’re used to always seeing shrimp in the case at the grocery store, but shrimp, like pretty much everything else on Earth, have a season.

In Georgia, shrimp spawn about 4 miles off the coast. Each female lays between 500,000 to 1 million fertilized eggs that drift along in ocean currents and hatch within 24 hours. During the next month or so, the larva continue to grow, eventually migrating from the ocean into the brackish marsh. There, as juveniles, they feed on algae, small animals, and organic debris for 2-3 months until they mature. Once mature, they return to the ocean as adult shrimp.

Shrimp season usually starts in late spring or early summer and lasts until December. The opening of the season is determined by the amount and size of the shrimp harvested within 3 miles of shore. The season opens when it is determined that there are enough fully grown shrimp that have come out of the marsh.

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Primal Urges

A few years I was able to go out on a working shrimp boat. It was then that I learned that a full moon typically produces a higher shrimp catch.

There’s a full moon this weekend. For most folks that’s enough to generate a powerful urge for a barefoot stroll on the beach in the soft light of la belle lune. Perhaps a stolen kiss? A wishful glance? A passionate embrace? Ah, no sweet, dear romantic one.

It means a darn BIG shrimp haul.

A full moon means hundreds of pounds of shrimp on slick, wet deck. It means being at work at 4:00 am, the emptiest, loneliest time on earth. It means mud, sweat, and possibly, blood. It’s dangerous work.

So, what does this have to do with the moon? (And, yes, we’ll get to that delicious recipe.)

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How Tides Work 

Check out my nifty graphic from NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. (You have no idea how excited I am this works.)

The Earth and the moon are attracted to each other, and are constantly pulling at one another, just like magnets … or lovers on a beach. Gravity holds everything solid on earth in place — but that means the moon is able to pull the non-solid, the water. As earth rotates, the ocean is constantly moving from high tide to low tide, and then back to high tide.

A full moon creates the most water movement — and sweeps the most shrimp into the waiting nets!

Bet you didn’t know you were going to get a lesson in Physical Geography along with your recipe for a weeknight supper. 😉 It’s empowering to understand where you food comes from, why, and how.

You’re going to love this recipe. Growing up in Louisiana had enormous impact on my childhood culinary experience. Mama didn’t know anyone when we first moved there, so she immersed herself in the cuisine to learn the culture. She bought copies of Junior League cookbooks bound in plastic ring binders. I grew up eating étoufée, similar to this one.

Perhaps the best part of this recipe is that it can be a weeknight supper in less than 30 minutes. Oh so good! Lastly, to ensure the shrimp you are purchasing are sustainable, make sure to follow purchasing guidelines from Seafood Watch.

Bon Appétit, Y’all!
Virginia Willis 

PS Need more? You won’t believe these Shrimp Nachos with Creamy Queso

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Smoky Shrimp Étoufée

Growing up in Louisiana had enormous impact on my childhood culinary experience. Mama didn’t know anyone when we first moved there, so she immersed herself in the cuisine to learn the culture. She bought copies of Junior League cookbooks bound in plastic ring binders. My sister and I grew up eating étoufée, similar to this one. Perhaps the best part of this recipe is that it can be a on the table in less than 30 minutes. Laissez les bons temps rouler!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Cajun, Creole
Keyword: rice, shrimp
Author: Virginia Willis


  • 1 tablespoon pure olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 small green bell or poblano pepper, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ¾ cup homemade chicken stock or reduced-fat low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 pound large shrimp, 21/25 count, shelled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Cooked long grain white or jasmine brown rice, for accompaniment
  • 2 green onions, trimmed and chopped


  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring often, until the roux is pale brown, about 10 minutes. Add the onion, celery, and bell pepper. Cook until the onion is soft and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 45 to 60 seconds.
  • In small bowl, combine the tomato paste and stock. Add the stock mixture to the skillet and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer until slightly thickened and the flavors have married, about 10 minutes.
  • Add the shrimp, parsley, smoked paprika, and cayenne pepper. Cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Spoon over hot rice, garnish with green onions, and serve immediately.


moky Seafood Etoufée (without rice)

Calories 178
 Fat 4 g Carbs 14 g Fiber 2 g Protein 22 g

Smoky Shrimp Étoufée photograph by Angie Mosier. All others by Virginia Willis.

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Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis’ biography includes making chocolate chip cookies with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, foraging for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvesting capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and hunting for truffles in France. She is talent and chef-instructor for the digital streaming platform Food Network Kitchen. Her segments feature authentic and innovative Southern cooking. She was the celebrity chef at the Mansion at Churchill Downs for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. Virginia has spoken at SXSW, cooked for the James Beard Foundation, and beguiled celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Morgan Freeman, and Jane Fonda with her cooking — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Recently, her work has been inspired by her weight loss success story, Virginia has lost 65# and kept it off for over 2 1/2 years! “If a French-trained, Southern chef can do it, you can, too.” She is the author of Fresh Start; Secrets of the Southern Table; Lighten Up, Y’all; Bon Appétit, Y’all; Basic to Brilliant, Y’all; Okra; and Grits. Lighten Up, Y’all won a James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence in the Focus on Health Category. Lighten Up, Y’all as well as her first cookbook, Bon Appétit, Y’all, were finalists in the Best American Cookbook for the International Association of Cookbook Awards and were also named by the Georgia Center of the Book as “Books Georgians Should Read.” She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree; has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants; and traveled the world producing food stories – from making cheese in California to escargot farming in France. She has appeared on Food Network’s Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. She’s been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, People Magazine, Eater, and Food52 and has contributed to Eating Well, GRLSQUASH, Culture, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know.” Her legion of fans loves her down-to-earth attitude, approachable spirit, and traveling exploits. Her culinary consulting company, Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc specializes in content creation, recipe development, culinary editorial and production services, cookbook writing, media training, spokesperson and brand representation, and public speaking. Virginia is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Atlanta Community Food Bank Advisory Board, as well as the Community Farmers Market Advisory Board. She is a food and hunger advocate for No Kid Hungry and a premier member of the No Kid Hungry Atlanta Society. She a member of The James Beard Foundation, Chef’s Collaborative, Georgia Organics, and Southern Foodways Alliance.

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