Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A No-Account [Shrimp] Creole

    For Christmas, my friend Kristen who is from Tennessee, has a family tradition that involves giving the gift of a Christmas basket full of themed goodies. For this Christmas, she gave me a basket full of kitchen themed items that included assorted spices, herbs, and jams from an Amish community near her home town, Betty Crocker kitchen utensils, and best of all, an antique Louisiana cookbook. This amazing book, a community cookbook from Jennings, Louisiana called French Acadian Cook Book, was published in 1955, and amazingly, Kristen found it at a flea market in her hometown in Tennessee! She said as soon as she saw it, she knew it was for me. Her gift brought tears to my eyes, and it is a tradition that I plan on making one of my own.

    Today, I decided to cook a recipe from this book called "Shrimp Creole." There were several recipes in this book of the same title, but this one sounded right to me, so here I will cook it for you so that you too can enjoy a delicious mid-century Louisiana Creole dish to warm you up this holiday season! The following photographs will tell you everything you need except for the following small alterations: instead of the single tablespoon of "vinegar" the recipe calls for, I used 2 tablespoons of aged white wine vinegar; I also included 2 teaspoons of Habanero Tabasco sauce, a teaspoon of chili powder, and I upped the salt amount to 2 teaspoons. If you do not like spicy food, you can leave out the hot sauce and chili powder. Also, just for the record, I eliminated the sage because I didn't have any. Lastly, set your white rice to cook while you prepare the Shrimp Creole.

It does not matter whether you buy head-on shrimp or not, because you will have to peel them and remove the heads anyway. Aren't they pretty and pink?!

After you peel a shrimp, you should make a shallow slice down the back of the shrimp and clean it by removing the vein that runs up its back.

Finely chop your "trinity." The trinity, in Creole and Cajun cooking, is the green pepper, celery, and onion. This is the basis of most southern Louisiana recipes! 

After cooking the trinity for a few minutes in butter, next you will add the flour. You should stir constantly after adding the flour, as it will burn if you don't. 

After the flour, add the tomato sauce and the canned chopped tomatoes. If you like, you can substitute canned for fresh. Just be sure to have about 16 oz. 

The vinegar comes next. Stir and taste to make sure it's right.

And if you like a spicy flavor, add your hot sauce now. I am (currently) a Louisiana girl, so I love Tabasco brand hot sauce from Avery Island, which is just thirty minutes from my house. To give it that extra kick, I chose the Habanero Tabasco. Watch out!

Finally, after you have generously seasoned them with salt and pepper, you add your shrimp to the pot. Be sure to cook them for only about five minutes, or else they will get overcooked and end up chewy and rubbery. Seriously - no more than five minutes!

And now, you are ready to eat. Spoon the Shrimp Creole over fresh steamed white rice, and serve with warm bread. I used my homemade sun-dried tomato, basil, and chive bread. If you like to imbibe, this dish is amazing with red wine, especially a carmenere from Chile. 

"The lush climate and atmosphere of Louisiana, the heat and humidity and the luxurious idleness of Creole life, have an erotic and narcotic effect...So does the continuous display of fine things - silver, linen, furnishings, and above all, food - which define the Creole sense of the good life."
-- Nina Baym The Awakening and Selected Stories by Kate Chopin

**In the photos above I am wearing a vintage apron from an antiques shop in Washington, Louisiana, a black dress from Marshall's, and an oyster shell and alligator tooth necklace from My husband, Luke, and I are eating from pottery bowls from a college pottery sale, the silver set is called Michelangelo by Oneida, the steak knives are Henckel, the blue salt and pepper birds are from the Edie Rose line by Rachel Bilson, the bread plate is from World Market, and the butter dish is from Pier 1. 

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