Nearly four years ago I posted a recipe for quick and easy shrimp Creole. Actually, the real deal doesn’t take that much effort, so I thought another recipe might be in order. The stimulus was my discovery of a bag of shrimp in the freezer. In our de-cluttering effort we are trying to clean out a small chest freezer we keep in the garage. Some decisions of what to get rid of were easy. Down at the bottom of the chest I found dates that went back years (No “Best to use by” labels here.) The shrimp were near the top and represented a fairly recent purchase, so they were moved to the freezer in the house to be used soon. Shrimp creole seemed like the easiest solution. Of course, the star of the dish is shrimp, but it couldn’t be Creole without the so-called Cajun Trinity – onions, celery, and green bell pepper. Those three vegetables are the base for so many Louisiana dishes including gumbo, jambalaya, and etouffée. In South Louisiana, many recipes call for Creole tomatoes, which are big, flavorful, and juicy. Large fresh tomatoes of other varieties are a good substitute, but in winter, canned tomatoes will have to do. If you’re using canned tomatoes, use a large can (28 ounces) of whole tomatoes, well drained and crushed in your hands before you add them to the sauce. As to spiciness, some in our household are extremely sensitive to hot chiles, so the seasoning in this version is fairly mild, but you should feel free to spice up your batch as much as you like. Most importantly, enjoy the fruits of your labor.
The Cajun “Holy Trinity”: onions, celery, and bell peppers
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped coarsely
- 1 rib celery, chopped coarsely
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped coarsely
- 3 large, ripe tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups fish stock
- 1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
- 1 sprig thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- salt and pepper to taste
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (adjust according to taste)
- dash Tabasco sauce (adjust according to taste)
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- juice of ½ lemon
- 2 pounds extra large (16-20/pound) shrimp, deveined, peeled, and tails removed
- ½ cup chopped Italian parsley (more or less)
- cooked rice
- Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over a medium flame. Add the onions,, stir, and cover to sweat the onions – about 5 minutes – until the onions are translucent. Do not let them brown. Add the celery and bell pepper. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes until the vegetables are wilted.
- Add the garlic, fish stock, tomato sauce, thyme, bay leaf and basil. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt, pepper, cayenne, and Tabasco. Add sugar and lemon juice. Add more salt if needed.
- At this point, you may cool the sauce and refrigerate for later use. The flavor improves overnight, but you probably shouldn’t try to hold it much longer.
- When you are ready to serve, prepare a batch of cooked rice according to your usual method. Return the sauce to a heavy pot and bring to a low boil. Add the raw shrimp and return to the boil for about 5 minutes until the shrimp have turned pink and they have lost their translucence.
- Ladle into large soup bowls over a mound of hot, cooked rice, garnish with parsley, and serve immediately. Have more Tabasco available for those who like their shrimp Creole spicier. Should serve 4 to 6.
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.
Making vegetable stock from frozen vegetable peelings and scraps
Thawed frozen shrimp with shells still on
Making shrimp stock by boiling shrimp shells in vegetable stock
Green pepper, one of the “Holy Trinity” of Creole and Cajun cooking
Celery and onions, the other parts of the cooking “Holy Trinity” along with tomatoes
Scallions, white and green parts, ready to be choppe
Paprika – this is mild, but you may use a hotter variety if you like
Canned tomato sauce makes for easy cooking, but chop up a few fresh tomatoes for texture
Shrimp have been added to the sauce and cooked for just a few minutes until they have become pink and lost their translucence
Finished shrimp Creole sauce served over cooked white rice. Add classic Louisiana hot sauce if you like.
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.