Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Comforting Shrimp Creole

On a cold, rainy night at home when you are in your comfy clothes and have the fire blazing in the fireplace (or in my case, a few candles lit), you want comfort food.  Something that smells good, looks good and will warm you up inside!  Many of my favorites include a good pot of chili, potato soup, or creamy mac and cheese.  In the recent years I have added a new favorite that's in the form of a Cajun classic....Shrimp Creole!  With the spicy tomato based sauce full of cooked down veggies and shrimp piled up and soaked in a bed of hot rice it is just so comforting!   This is a dish my mother-in-law (whom I love!) introduced me to.  I have always loved the flavors of New Orleans and spicy dishes, so this dish was love at first taste!

There's quite a bit of chopping to prep for this dish -- but honestly, unless I am rushed for time, I enjoy getting out the cutting board and my sharpest chef's knife and dicing the vegetables. You will want them diced in about the same-sized pieces so they will cook evenly. I put onion in this dish, even though it doesn't call for it. I like the onion flavor with the garlic, and the onion with the bell pepper and celery is sometimes called the holy trinity in Louisiana cuisine. This combination is the base of other Cajun dishes, as well. Sometimes, onions really bother my sensitive eyes if they are very fresh so if I can't afford to lose my mascara, I will use frozen pre-chopped onions. They are a good thing to have on hand for those who don't like to dice or don't have much time.

When stirring the flour in the oil be a little patient to get the light brown color.  This is like a roux, which is traditionally flour stirred into melted (clarified) butter.  You could definitely do this instead of the oil to get an even richer, creamier base. A roux is also used to start many Cajun dishes.  I just added a bit of butter to my olive oil.  I use olive oil because it is the healthier option and I try to cook by making smart choices for our bodies! Also, I add more red pepper to this dish then it calls for.  We enjoy a kick to our food, and so you can adjust according to your taste.  The shrimp should be watched fairly carefully at the end, to ensure no overcooking.  Already have your rice finished by the time the shrimp is fully cooked and ladle the Shrimp Creole over a bowl of hot rice! Serve this with cornbread muffins or even just toast with some melted butter and garlic salt.  We always put Tabasco sauce on the table so you can add a couple dashes to your taste!  Enjoy this dish inside your cozy home no matter the weather, and feel the warmth of eating a beautiful meal in the comfort of our own home. Enjoy!

*Tip- To make ordinary rice really good, brown the rice in oil in the same pan you will be cooking it in, before adding the water and cooking.  This will really bring out the nuttiness and flavor of the rice.  Salt your water well; and after it's cooked, fluff your rice and stir in as much butter as your conscience allows and add salt and pepper. So good and rich!  (Not recommended if watching your weight!)

1/4 cup   oil
1/4 cup   flour
4  cloves garlic
1/2 cup   chopped onion (optional)
1/2 cup   chopped celery
1/2 cup   chopped green pepper
1/4 tsp.   thyme
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp.   black pepper
1/4 tsp.   red pepper
2 (8 oz.) cans tomato sauce
2 cans    tomatoes
1 1/2 lbs. frozen shrimp (whatever size you prefer, I like small)

1. Heat oil.  Add flour stirring constantly until smooth and golden brown.
2. Add garlic, celery, onion and green pepper.  Cook until tender.
3. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, and seasonings, and cook 15-20 minutes stirring frequently.
4. Add shrimp and simmer 12-15 more minutes.

Makes about 6 servings.

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