Sunday, January 2, 2011

Slap Yo Mamma Shrimp Creole

Lately I've been watching a lot of the show No Reservations on the Travel Channel. The Boy loves Anthony Bourdain, and since I love food and cooking (ok, and traveling) so much, I don't mind spending a Sunday morning curled up on the couch watching AB travel around the globe and sample some pretty delectable (and pretty grotesque) dishes. Sorry Anthony, but sheep's head is just not on this foodie's menu. Maybe one day I'll man up enough and try it, but for now I'll keep to foods that don't stare at me while I'm trying to figure out where exactly to begin the approach with my fork.

Today we watched a re-run of Anthony's "Tour de New Orleans," and after watching him devour some of my favorite dishes (po-boys, flounder with crab meat piled high from Antoine's, a down-home crab boil, etc), I became inspired to make my own creole feast. I am, after all, part French-Cajun, and spent my first years in the kitchen with my paternal grandmother, Nanny, watching as she served up mouth-watering fare like Seafood Gumbo, Crawfish Etouffee, and, of course, Shrimp Creole - all paired with a salad and real French Bread that my grandfather, Pop, would bring home special from New Orleans (they only lived about an hour away).

I use to have a great Shrimp Creole recipe courtesy of Nanny (which she learned from Pop's mother, a full French-creole), but after so many moves over the last 8-9 years, I've managed to misplace it. The one I found from Cooking Louisiana is pretty close (as far as I remember), so here it is, renamed Slap Yo Mamma Shrimp Creole because, as many of the Ragin' Cajuns like to say, "It's so good, it'll make you wanna slap yo mamma!" But please don't.

You will need:

2 lbs. medium shrimp, shells on
2 16 oz cans Cajun stewed tomatoes (or you can use regular stewed tomatoes if you can't find the Cajun kind), chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2-3 stalks celery, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, diced
1 bunch green onions, chopped
handful of fresh parsley, chopped
2 bay leaves
Creole seasoning (I like Tony Chachere's, but whatever)
1 tsp sugar (it neutralizes the acid in the tomatoes)
1 c. water or shrimp stock (see below for how to make the stock)
2 TBSP flour
3 TBSP vegetable oil

This recipe is best if you don't mind taking the time to make the shrimp stock. If you get your shrimp from the Seafood counter at the grocery store, you should be able to get de-veined, shells-on, medium raw shrimp. All you need to do is peel the shrimp, rinse the peels, put them in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then add a pinch of stock and boil for 5 mins. Let cool, then strain the stock. You can freeze any of the unused stock and use again!

To prepare the creole, you'll need a dutch oven or large pot. Make a blonde roux by combining the vegetable oil and flour and stirring over low heat. Add the onions, and saute for about 10 mins. Add the bell pepper and celery, and saute another 15 mins. Stir in the tomatoes, garlic and bay leaves and continue to cook for 30-40 mins on medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Add the stock (or water) and sugar; bring to a boil stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add green onions and parsley and stir. Simmer for 20 mins covered, stirring every 5 mins. If it looks to thin (it should be about the consistency of gravy), you can add a bit more flour. Add the seasoning and shrimp and simmer for about 3-5 mins, stirring frequently. Taste and add seasoning as needed. Remove bay leaves and serve over rice, with some fresh French bread if you have! TIP: As with most Creole dishes, the longer you allow the mixture to sit and "marry," the better it will taste. I recommend at least an hour on very low heat, but the longer the better. This is a great dish to make the day before, and then allow to sit in the fridge overnight before re-warming.

I love Creole food, especially in the winter. The dishes are hot, flavorful, and filling. Shrimp Creole is fantastic not only because it fulfills all your desires (see above), but because it's surprisingly low in fat and calories (note the absence of my signature ingredient, butter). Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler! Let the Good Times Roll!

Shrimp Creole over rice

Disclaimer: AJ's Kitchen does not advocate violence, and does not condone the slapping of anyone, mother or not. No mothers were harmed during the making of this recipe.

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