Tag Archives: crabmeat

LOUISIANA-STYLE CRAB-STUFFED SHRIMP

Within the USA, there seem to be two major schools of thought on how to stuff a shrimp (prawn). In New England, most recipes call for crushed Ritz crackers in the ingredient list, and then the shrimp are usually baked. (Parenthetically, Ritz crackers seem to be a basic staple in New England.) Along the Gulf Coast, especially in Louisiana, shrimp are stuffed with a spicy crab mixture and then deep-fried.

My first experience with crab-stuffed shrimp was at Freeman and Harris Café in Shreveport, Louisiana. It is claimed that  at one time Freeman and Harris, established in 1921, was the first and longest operating African-American-owned restaurant in the United States. Those seem likely to be highly arguable claims, but what is not arguable is that the food was delicious. Even though the café was located in a poor black section of Shreveport (Saint Paul’s Bottoms or just “The Bottoms”, later renamed Ledbetter Heights), the food attracted politicians, business people, and prominent citizens – black and white – to enjoy chicken and dumplings specially prepared one day a week, other Southern favorites, and the cafe’s famous crab-stuffed shrimp.

Freeman and Harris long ago became Pete Harris’s Café and then eventually closed. But even today  descendants of the original families and some of the early cooks still serve up their versions of the stuffed shrimp, to the point that locals think of them as Shreveport-Style Stuffed Shrimp.

This recipe is a pale imitation of the stuffed shrimp I first ate at Freeman and Harris, but it still brings to mind Louisiana cooking.

RECIPES

Crab Stuffing

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup finely chopped celery
  • ½ cup finely chopped bell pepper (I used miniature red, orange, and yellow “snacking” bell peppers, but you may use whatever you prefer.)
  • ½ cup finely chopped  green onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled between your hands
  • 6 ounces crabmeat
  • ¼ cup dry breadcrumbs
  • ¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • salt

Method

  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in the celery, bell pepper, onion, and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes until the vegetables are wilted and the onions are translucent.
  2. Stir in the garlic powder, black and red pepper, and oregano. Remove from the heat and stir in the crabmeat, breadcrumbs, and Worcestershire sauce. Adjust the seasoning with the salt.
  3. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Crab-Stuffed Shrimp

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of unshelled extra-large shrimp (13-15/pound or larger)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • cayenne pepper (optional and to your taste)
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1½ teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon ground oregano
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg beaten
  • fine bread crumbs
  • peanut oil for deep frying

Method

  1. Shell and de-vein the shrimp, leaving the tail.
  2. With a small, sharp knife butterfly the shrimp by cutting along the central line, being careful not to cut completely through. Open like a book. and set aside. You may see another black line (not the intestine. This is the shrimp’s nervous system, so don’t worry about it.)
  3. In a small bowl, combine the pepper(s), salt, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme and oregano. Reserve 2 teaspoons for sprinkling on the shrimp.
  4. Combine the flour with the remaining seasoning mixture. Place the seasoned flour in a bowl or pie pan.
  5. In another bowl or pie pan, combine the milk and beaten egg.
  6. Put a good amount of breadcrumbs in another bowl or pie pan.
  7. Sprinkle the shrimp with the reserved seasoning mix.
  8. Place a generous tablespoonful of the reserved crab mixture on each of the butterflied shrimp. Press firmly so that the crab mixture sticks to the shrimp.
  9. Working in batches, dip the stuffed shrimp in the flour mixture, then in the milk and egg mixture, again in the four, and then in the breadcrumbs.
  10. Have ready about 1-2 inches of oil heated to 350°F in a deep, heavy-bottomed pan.
  11. Fry the shrimp, 3 or 4 at a time, until browned on all sides. Drain on layers of paper towels and keep warm in the oven until all the shrimp are fried.
  12. Serve immediately with your favorite seafood sauce – tartar, cocktail, etc.  Allow 3 to 5 stuffed shrimp for each serving.

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CRABMEAT TECHE

Bayou Teche is one of the most important waterways in Louisiana. It is an ancient riverbed of the Mississippi River before it changed its flow several thousand years ago. Bayou Teche runs over a hundred miles before it empties into the Atchafalaya River, another former route of the Mississippi. The bayou served as the watery route of entry for the Acadians from Canada during their forced migration into Louisiana. The bayou flows through the heart of Cajun country, including some of its most famous towns and cities. Breaux Bridge is well-known for its zydeco, dance halls, and crawfish. St. Martinville is quaint and home to great Cajun food. New Iberia is close by Avery Island, the home of the famous Tabasco Sauce.  So, with a name like “Crabmeat Teche,” this dish must be pure Cajun.

The original recipe comes from the classic, “River Road Recipes” first published by the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Junior League in 1959 and self-described as “The Textbook of Louisiana Cuisine”. Many of the recipes reflect the times, calling for canned mushroom soup, flavored gelatin, and lots of convenience foods. At the same time the book is a trove of honest-to-goodness Louisiana recipes, and for that reason you can usually find a copy of the cookbook in most Louisiana homes you visit.

The recipe for Crabmeat Teche was contributed  by Mrs. Roy Dabadie. I guess she lived in Baton Rouge at the time, but with a name like that, I shouldn’t be surprised if she originally hailed from someplace along the Bayou Teche. The  recipe used some of the convenience foods of the time, so I have made some small revisions. Nonetheless crabmeat Teche is still a 1950s casserole, but it tastes a lot better than tuna noodle bake.

Baked crabmeat Teche casserole

You’ll need a fresh vegetable to complement the casserole. I made a simple salad to go with it: sliced seasonal tomatoes, sprinkled with chopped fresh basil, coarsely-grated mozzarella cheese and your favorite vinaigrette.  It seemed to be an ideal foil for the rich casserole.

Caprese salad

RECIPE

Crabmeat Teche

Ingredients

  • 1 large bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 8 ounces crimini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons bacon drippings
  • 4 slices very dry toast (dry enough to crumble easily)
  • 3 cups fish stock or chicken stock, divided
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, pulverized between your hands
  • Louisiana hot sauce, to taste
  • ¾ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 pound can crabmeat, picked over for shells
  • ¾ cup cracker crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • paprika

Crabmeat Teche

Method

  • In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, sauté pepper, onions, celery, mushrooms, and garlic in bacon drippings until tender, about 10 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, crumble the dry toast in 1½ cups of fish stock. When the stock is completely absorbed and the toast crumbs have softened, add them to the skillet along with Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, celery salt, and oregano. Continue to simmer, stirring frequently until well combined. Adjust flavoring with hot sauce to taste.
  • Add the parsley and remaining 1½ cups of fish stock, stirring until well combined.
  • Add crabmeat, and mix thoroughly. Then pour the mixture into a well-buttered casserole.
  • Sprinkle the  top with cracker crumbs, dot with butter, and sprinkle with paprika.
  • Bake  for 20-30 minutes at 350° in the middle of a pre-heated oven. IF casserole is made ahead and refrigerated, increase baking time to 45-60 minutes.

Serving of crabmeate Teche with caprese salad

Serves 4 to 8, depending upon serving size

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