One of the things I found in the freezer was a big plastic bag of vegetable scraps – carrot peelings, celery bottoms, onion skins and roots, bits of tomatoes – which I had been saving from a couple of months’ worth of cooking projects. For years I have made chicken stock from chicken parts and bones and beef stock from bone. But I never made my own vegetable stock until I picked up a tip from Sara Moulton on her television show, “Sara’s Weeknight Meals”. Save your scraps in the freezer, and when you have enough, put them in a pot, cover with water, and simmer for thirty minutes to an hour, cool, strain, and freeze into cubes to be used whenever you need vegetable stock. Works like the proverbial charm, and forms the beginning of today’s recipe.
The other thing I found in the freezer was a package of shrimp (21-30/pound size), and they became the inspiration and base for shrimp creole. In Louisiana, shrimp creole can be a simple country dish or a fancier version for company dinners and buffets. For that reason, some folks think it is just too complicated for a quick dinner. Too bad, because it is easy to make and fairly fast. This version took me about two hours to prepare, but that was because I was running around finding props and making images. You should be able to whip it up in a flat hour or so. Served with cooked rice, this recipe should serve 2 to 4 persons.
Something you need to know before you start this recipe is that shrimp creole can be as piquant as you like. For family reasons, we don’t put much heat into Cajun and Mexican dishes, but if you enjoy heat, by all means use the hot sauce with abandon. For this dish – since it is from Louisiana – I suggest either Tabasco or Trappey’s.
- fresh or frozen shrimp (21-30/pound), shells on – allow 5 to 6 for each serving
2 cups vegetable stock
- 2 tablespoons bacon drippings
- ½ large yellow onion, chopped
- 2 scallions, chopped, including green tops
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/8 teaspoon ground bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon ground thyme
- 1½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (optional or to taste)
- 1 can (14 ounces) tomato sauce
- 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- juice of ½ lemon
Peel and clean the shrimp. Refrigerate the peeled shrimp until ready to add to the cooked sauce. Save the shells.
- Prepare shrimp stock by combining the vegetable stock and shrimp shells in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 15 minutes. Strain. You should have about 1½ cups of shrimp stock.
- In a 4 quart stockpot, melt the bacon drippings over medium heat. Add the onions, cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and sweat the onions for 5 minutes or until they are translucent.
- Add the scallions, celery, and green pepper, raise the heat again to medium and cook the vegetables until tender, about 10 minutes.
- Stir in the shrimp stock, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, salt, pepper, paprika, and optional Tabasco sauce. Bring to the boil for 5 minutes.
- Then add the tomato sauce and reduce heat to the simmer for 10 minutes or so.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and simmer just long enough until the tomatoes are softened
- Correct the seasonings, add the sugar and lemon juice. Then add the shrimp and stir them into the sauce until they are cooked and pink – no longer than 5 minutes.
- Serve immediately over cooked rice. Allow about ½ to 1 cup of rice for each serving.