Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Shrimp Creole

A dish from the Deep South
So my latest endeavor was Shrimp Creole, a dish originating from the Deep South, with an eclectic taste reflecting French, Spanish and African Cuisine. The benefit of Creole cooking, from what I've learnt is that it’s a recipe that you can add to for personal taste.
The core elements consist of cooked shrimp, diced tomatoes, onion, celery, bell peppers, heated with Tabasco sauce and other warming spices like cayenne. This dish is cooked to achieve a nice thickness, served over rice. I wanted to find a very traditional and timely recipe, one that required hours of stewing and a whole lot of herbs.
I decided not to take any short cuts. Paula Deen had a really watered down version that didn't really use any spices or herbs and looked bland. I’ve never been the South, I want to go mostly for the food. Researching and understanding how a full body of flavors interact for any given recipe is important, especially when you’ve never cooked anything similar before; it will help you create and understand the meal and its origins. So don’t skip on anything!
 It seems to be a very popular dish, but lots of people point towards the diminished quality available in the States. This is mostly I guess because Creole cooking remains so that you can really add whatever spices and vegetables you have in your kitchen. I had a certified Southern food expert to dinner and the approval was given!

If you don’t like spicy dishes, half the quantities of Tabasco, cayenne and pepper! My mouth went up in flames, but it was all well worth it.

Serves 4 – 6 people

1.5 pounds of large unpeeled Shrimp
3 Celery Sticks (diced finely)
5 Vine Ripened Tomatoes (diced finely)
1 Large Onion (diced finely)
1 Green Bell Pepper (diced finely)
2 Cloves of Garlic
3 tbsp Butter
3 tbsp Tomato Paste
1 tsp Brown Sugar
½ cup Port Wine
1 tbsp Tabasco Sauce
1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
3 tbsp Parsley finely Chopped
2 Bay Leaves
1 bunch of Fresh Thyme
2 cups Jasmine Rice

Creole Seasoning

½ tbsp Onion Powder
½ tbsp Garlic Powder
½ tbsp Dried Oregano
½ tbsp Dried Basil
½ tbsp Dried Thyme
½ tsp White Pepper
½ tsp Black Pepper
½ tbsp Cayenne Pepper
1 ½ tbsp Paprika
1 tsp Salt

Shrimp Stock

Shrimp Skins and Tail
½ Lemon
¼ cup White Wine
1 tbsp Butter
½ Stick Celery
1 Small Onion
1 tbsp Sea Salt
¼ Teaspoon of Creole Seasoning

We’re going to recycle the skins from the prawns earlier and make our own stock. The soup stock should be warm and not too over powering, so we’re going to balance the intensity out with some lemon and thyme.

NOTE: Cook the stock in advance for a much bolder taste and to save yourself becoming manic. Combine ingredients and cook on medium heat for 1 hour. Also cook the rice as per usual, but with salt, 2 bay leaves and some butter for rich warm rice.

As any good meal starts, melt the butter in a pan, add the onions, garlic and brown sugar and let them caramelize until they are golden brown. Then add the celery and bell pepper and combine with half the Creole seasoning. We are gradually adding vegetables in stages to allow each to cook appropriately. Once everything starts to wilt, we are going to add the tomatoes.  At this stage feel free to add kosher salt to let everything break down and cook better. Add tomato paste and cook until it has browned, and then follow by adding the port and cooking until the alcohol has evaporated.  We now have our base!!

Continue by adding pre-,made stock and stir well. Now adjust the stock to the base of the dish to meld the flavous better. At this point, also add remaining Creole seasoning, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce. Tie the bay leaves and thyme in twine and place in the middle of  dish.

Let the dish cook on a low-medium heat until it thickens, adding the shrimp to cook for the last 10 minutes. Enough of the taste from the shrimp is captured in the stock, so we are essentially just trying to cook the shrimp until they are tender and soft.

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