Friday, February 10, 2012

SC Shrimp Creole

This is a meal my family eats regularly.  Shrimp creole is thick and spicy and tomatoey.  I'll be honest.  I'm not even going to claim this is authentic because I have no idea if it is.  I've had shrimp creole exactly once in Louisiana, and I don't remember it that well.  BUT!  It has some of the most important elements of that style of cooking and rocks my world to boot.  So there.  Nanny-nanny boo boo.

I could wax poetic on the importance of wild American shrimp (local if you're lucky enough to live on the coast like myself).  I'll just say that the flavor is different and significant enough for you to want to buy shrimp that was not farm raised in Thailand.  Nothing against Thailand.  I'm sure their wild shrimp is good too...when you're in Thailand.  You get what I'm saying?

You'll need: A can of diced tomatoes, a large can of crushed tomatoes, bay leaves, bell pepper, celery, onion, garlic, Creole seasoning, shrimp, hot sauce, bacon, Worcestershire sauce, and dried thyme (not pictured because it took me 20 minutes to find the stuff).   Your shrimp should be peeled and deveined. I used a 26/30 count shrimp.  That just refers to how many shrimp should constitute about a pound.
The prep is giving all your veggies a good dice.  Celery, bell pepper, and onions are known as the holy trinity in Creole cooking.
Dice up some bacon.  This will be easier if your bacon is frozen.  If it's not (mine certainly wasn't), just use a really sharp knife.
We're going to render the fat out of the bacon.  You'll need a large pan for this or even a pot.
When those bacon pieces are nice and crispy, remove them from the pan and drain on a paper towel.
 Add the trinity + garlic and cook until the veg has softened some.
We're not trying to brown them.  Just go until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add both of the tomatoes to the pan, juice and all.
 Season with a dash of Worcestershire sauce, a big ol' bay leaf, hot sauce, and some Creole seasoning.
Don't forget the thyme!  This is going to cook about 20 minutes on medium low heat.  If it looks like it's getting too thick because maybe you had the heat too high, which I didn't do but totally did....just splash a little water or vegetable stock in to thin it up.  No harm, no foul.  Check your seasonings.  If it need a little extra salt or heat, add some Creole seasoning.  If you don't want the heat but need the salt, just use a good kosher salt.
Time for the shrimp!
Spread them out in the sauce, let them talk amongst themselves.  Stir them every few minutes to make sure they're cooking evenly.
The shrimp are done when they're no longer grey and unfortunate looking.  These are pink and a bright white.
Stir the bacon back in.  You didn't think we'd leave it out did you?!
Serve it over white rice with a piece of crusty French bread.  Feel free to garnish with a little green onion.
We like to serve it with cole slaw and sweet peas.  I don't know why, we just do.  It works.  The dressing in the slaw runs into the tomato sauce and peas.  My oh my.  I always get too much.  I think, "Oh, this is just perfect."  Then I mix the rice and sauce all up and I'm astounded by how much food I have.  And that totally doesn't stop me from eating it all.

SC Shrimp Creole (serves 4-5)

3 slices bacon, diced
1 c diced celery
1 c diced green bell pepper
1 c diced sweet onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14.5 oz) can petite diced tomatoes
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 bay leaf
Dash of Worcestershire sauce (about 1 tsp)
Hot sauce, to taste (Crystal or Tabasco recommended)
1 tsp Creole seasoning, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined

  • In a large pan or medium pot, cook bacon over medium heat.  Cook until crispy and fat has rendered.  Remove bacon and drain on paper towels.  Set aside.  
  • Add celery, bell pepper, onion, and garlic to pan.  Stir to coat in the bacon grease and let vegetables soften.  When onions are translucent, add both cans of tomatoes.  Add bay leaf and next 4 ingredients.  Stir and let cook over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes.  If sauce becomes too thick, reduce heat slightly and thin with water or vegetable stock.  Adjust seasonings as needed.  Stir in shrimp and cook until pink and no longer grey, about 10 minutes.  Stir bacon into the finished sauce.  Serve over white rice with crusty French bread.

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