Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Friends love when friends make food

My friend Ayana consistently inspires me with her kitchen successes.  Today she is sharing one with you and it's not even remotely vegan, so you know I must really love her!

Take it away, Ayana!

So, I have never done this before so please bear with me.
Tis the season, and around my home that means hearty meals, preferably one pot and easy to clean up. It always seems that easy on the surface, but behind the scenes there is simmering and sautéing, tasting (my favorite) and more than likely some substitutions involved. The tasting is in a way… the measuring. I do not measure anymore, and for that matter neither do my mother, grandmother or great-grandmother… and if I have to, be prepared for some disaster to come crawling out of the kitchen, that would be me, and food that just is not quite right, not Ayana. However, I will try my best in order to deliver this recipe.

Back to my season… well the oven blew up just as I took out my Thanksgiving turkey, I mean immediately after sitting my turkey down there were fireworks. So needless to say, everything for the next few weeks is stove-top (not the dressing but the cooking style). I had a bag of shrimp that I had been saving for the Christmas gumbo, but I figured I might as well enjoy anything at this point – especially if it cooks fast!

During this season, it is always Southern and Cajun/Creole cooking for me! I figure it will keep my husband happy through the New Year, and then he is stuck for another year! Just kidding!

Anyhow, back to my brainstorm: Shrimp + Cajun/Creole = Shrimp Étouffe (I have always been told that I had an aptitude for math).


Veggies –
The Trinity: Onion, Bell Pepper and Celery. The ratio is about 1 : ½ : 3 ribs
Garlic: 5 cloves (adjust for your taste, I typically use a bit more)
Pureed Tomatoes: 3 small (I had the last of the season’s vine ripened on hand – luck of the draw!)

Fat –
Butter and Olive oil, about equal parts at 3 – 4 tbls. each.

Protein –
1 lb. of Shrimp (preferably shell-ON)

Flour – Amount equal to the fat used (ex. 6 tablespoons for 6 tablespoons)
Seasoning – Ok, so I mix up huge batches of my own seasoning and use it on everything. This is also what I used to flavor the dish. However, you cannot go wrong with:
1 Bay Leaf
Adobo (sin pimiento/without pepper)
Paprika and
A dash of Old Bay

Tips and Tricks:
The Trinity - This is something that I keep in the freezer and just scoop out what I need. I also use the entire piece of celery up to the leaves.
The Fat - I am not known for always keeping butter on hand, margarine will do just fine, however simmer it for a few minutes so as to remove as much of the water from it as possible so that we get a nice sauté going. For the richest and most delicious guilty pleasure... use Ghee all the way!
Shrimp - Now, when in Rome… typically when in New Orleans or having a Big Easy affair I use crawfish but this is equally tantalizing using shrimp, it just takes a little more umph to pack a punch of flavor. This is why I buy shrimp with the shell on, after peeling the shrimp boil the shells for a shrimp/seafood stock for an extra wow (I also freeze the uncooked shells when not needed). Use your seasoning in the boil as well and just drain through a mesh/other colander and reserve the hot stock on the side for later.

Let's begin:
1. Start with the fat (I just like calling it that instead of oil). Place in a sauté pan and get it hot, then throw in your trinity and season to taste. Sautee until tender then add your garlic.
2. When all that good stuff is smelling good, begin sprinkling the flour in about a tablespoon at a time. Continue to stir until everything is incorporated and you will keep stirring for about 5 - 10 minutes. You want the color tan, but no darker than peanut butter (or you will have to begin again or just make Gumbo)... Ta da - you have made Roux! See that was not hard.
3. Hopefully you have a seafood/shrimp broth from the tips I gave you. If not a vegetable or chicken will do well (reduced sodium). Begin to stream in the hot/warm broth, it just goes easier if it is hot /warm already.
4. Add your pureed tomatoes and your bay leaf and let this simmer until the sauce has thickened (~15-20 minutes), the longer the better but we have already taken some steps to cut down on cook time.. (I like it to at least be at the consistency that if you dip it/stir your sauce  with a clean spoon and take it out, it should still cover the back the spoon. You should be able to run your fingertip down the spoon and the sauce will stay separated on the spoon).
5. Time to add the shrimp, and do not forget to season them! *In order to make your shrimp curl, cut them lengthwise while shelling and cleaning. Let the dish simmer until the shrimp curls (a few minutes) and it is done. Do not overcook the shrimp.
Remove the bay leaf before serving. Garnish with fresh cut parsley (which I forgot for the picture) and enjoy over rice. My favorite: Mahatma Jasmine... the buttery flavor just adds another level of depth that long-grain just does not do for me.

Thanks Ayana!  Anyone else working hard to being hometown flavors to their house this holiday?

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