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07/07/2016

~ Shrimp Creole: The King of Creole Shrimp Dishes ~

IMG_8895Shrimp a la Creole or Creole-style shrimp is the first Creole recipe I ever cooked, and, I made it because I wanted to try my 19-year-old hand at making something "new to me".  I was a new bride and the recipe was on page 311 of the 1974 Edition of Betty Crocker's Cookbook.  While their recipe was "quick and easy", it was fundamentally sound and it tasted pretty good too.  It served its purpose well, in that, its success prompted me to try more sophisticated versions, the best one being made with fresh Gulf shrimp in the New Orleans French Quarter in the 1980's.

IMG_8838< Betty Crocker's recipe (pictured here), while good, is not "the best", nor is it the the recipe I am making and sharing today, but, in reality, shrimp Creole really is a relatively easy dish to prepare and we all gotta start somewhere.

Everyone, even in Louisiana, prepares shrimp Creole a little differently, but, all versions all contain the "Holy Trinity (celery, onion and green bell pepper), some sort of tomato product, "heat", to taste, in the form of cayenne pepper or cayenne pepper sauce, spices common to Creole fare, and, the best quality shrimp available to you. Some versions are very thin and brothy, others are slightly-thickened (but not to the point of being stewlike like etoufee), and, most times it gets topped with rice.

What's the difference between shrimp Creole & shrimp etouffee?

IMG_8901^Shrimp Creole is "soupy".  It is simmered & typically unthickened.

A bit about soup:  If you've simmered meat, poultry, seafood and/or vegetables in seasoned water-, wine-, juice- or milk- based liquid, you've made soup.  Soups can be thin, chunky, smooth, and, thickened after the fact (by adding potatoes, rice, beans, vegetables, or, using a mixture of cream or water mixed with cornstarch or flour) to a stew-like consistency.  Soups (there are exceptions) tend to be refined and light tasting, using shreds of meat and/or small diced ingredients, or, pureed to a thin or thick, smooth consistency.  They can be prepared in less than 1-1 1/2 hours, and sometimes, as little as 15-30 minutes.  Soups can be served as an appetizer, side-dish or main course, but, are always served in a bowl and eaten with a spoon.

IMG_8887A bit about shrimp Creole:  Shrimp creole is a dish of shrimp simmered in a brothy tomato-based sauce rather than shrimp stock (typical Creole dishes do not contain broth, stock or roux).  It's simmered until the shrimp are tender and just cooked through, although I have seen versions that add tomato paste to give the sauce a bit more body.  In this case of this particular shrimp dish, the experts of NOLA recommend using high-quality, medium-sized, bited-sized (spoon-sized) shrimp (31-35 count), which allows the bold-flavored sauce to work its magic in each and every bite you take, so:  save those colossals and jumbos for the barbecue grill or stuffing with crabmeat.  As for the Holy Trinity (the celery, onion and green bell pepper),  I've eaten versions where the veggies are very-small to small-diced for a more refined presentation, and, versions where the veggies are medium to large diced for a more rustic look.  I prefer the small dice but that choice is yours.

IMG_5860^Shrimp etoufee is "stewy".  It is thickened at the start using a roux.

A bit about stew:  If you've cooked/sauteed your meat, poultry, seafood and/or vegetables in seasoned oil, butter or fat, then added just enough of flour and liquid or thickened liquid to it to bring it to an almost gravy-like consistency, you've made a stew.  Stews tend to be full of chunky ingredients and full of bold herb and/or spice flavors.  Stews are hearty and filling and are almost always served as the main course.  Stews, because they require a longer, slower cooking time than a soup, sometimes 3-4 hours or longer, often in a tightly-covered vessel, are great for tenderizing tough cuts of meat.  Stews, while usually served in a bowl, can be spooned over a starch (couscous, rice, potatoes, etc) and turned into a knife and fork meal.

IMG_5803A bit about etouffee (ay-TOO-fay): One of New Orlean's hallmark dishes, it is basically a thick, spicy, maindish shellfish stew served over cooked white rice*.  It is neither brothy nor soupy.  Originally a dish found in the Bayou and backwaters of Louisiana, it was introduced to New Orleans restaurants about 80 years ago, and, nowadays, many restaurants will tell you it is the most popular dish on their menu.

In French, the word "etouffee" means "smothered" or "suffocated".  Etouffee recipes are found in both Cajun and Creole cuisines and are seasoned as such, with either Cajun or Creole seasoning.  The smothery sauce is made with a flour-and-butter-based golden brown roux, the "Holy Trinity" (onion, celery and green pepper), seafood stock, and, one type of shellfish (crawfish, shrimp or crab), not a combination of shellfish.  Fresh or canned tomatoes are optional.  In New Orleans, crawfish etouffee is classic.  Here in the 'burbs, shrimp does nicely.

I can't wait to eat succulent, spicy shrimp Creole for dinner!

IMG_88412  pounds medium shrimp (31-35 count), peeled & deveined, tails removed

2  tablespoons salted butter

2  tablespoons olive oil

1  generous cup small-diced celery

1  generous cup small-diced onion

1  generous cup small-diced green bell pepper

2-3  large garlic cloves, minced or run through a press

2  whole bay leaves

2  tablespoons Creole seasoning

2  14 1/2-ounce cans diced tomatoes, undrained

1/2  cup white wine

2  teaspoons Lousiana Gold hot sauce, to taste, or your favorite cayenne pepper sauce

2  teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1  cup minced, fresh parsley, 1/2 for stirring into shrimp Creole and 1/2 cup for garnishing finished portions

3 cups, uncooked extra-long-grained white rice, 6 cups steamed extra-long-grain white rice, for topping finished portions, 1 cup per serving

IMG_8845 IMG_8847 IMG_8851 IMG_8856 IMG_8859 IMG_8860~Step 1.  In a 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight deep sides, over low heat, melt the butter into the olive oil.  When the butter begins to foam, add the onions, adjust heat to sauté, and continue to cook until onions are beginning to brown, about 6 minutes.  Add the celery, bell peppers and garlic.  Stir in the bay leaves and Creole seasoning. Continue to cook until celery and bell peppers are nicely softened, about 3 minutes.

IMG_8863 IMG_8865 IMG_8870 IMG_8871 IMG_8874 IMG_8877~Step 2.  Add the diced tomatoes, white wine, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce and half of the parsley.  Adjust heat to a gentle simmer and cook, about 6 minutes.  Add the shrimp.  When the mixture returns to a simmer, cover the pan and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until shrimp are just cooked through, about 6 minutes. Turn the heat off and allow shrimp Creole to sit, covered, on the warm stovetop 15-30 minutes.

IMG_8880Portion & top with steamed rice & a sprinkling of parsley.

IMG_8890Shrimp Creole:  The King Creole of Shrimp Dishes:  Recipe yields 6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid; large spoon; large slotted spoon

IMG_5689 IMG_5622Cook's Note: Creole-style rice is an artform in Nola.  You can find my recipe for ~ Commander's Kitchen's "Boiled Rice" ~, in  Category 4.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos Courtesy of Melaie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)

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