I discovered this dish when I was 14 years old. My boyfriend took me to a family dinner and his grandmother was visiting from Louisiana. Out in the kitchen was a pot of the most fragrant red tomato sauce…not at all Italian in scent…and beside the stove was the biggest heap of shrimp I had ever seen. I was handed an apron and a bowl of shrimp and quickly initiated into the rites of peeling and deveining shrimp…and the kitchen camaraderie of women.
The finished dish was delicious…that was back in the days that I could eat bell peppers without distress…and the spiciness was not quite enough to make me sniffle, but enough to make my lips tingle. You can adjust the spiciness to be whatever you want, but I still like it this way. Hats off to Grandma Smith and the fabulous Shrimp Creole that inspired my version of it, below.
1 cup fresh or frozen okra, sliced (discard tips)
1 cup fresh celery, sliced across the ribs
1 cup fresh onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced or put through garlic press
1 bell pepper (green) seeded and chopped coarsely (optional)
¼ tsp (or more) chili powder
½ tsp ground cumin
3 14oz (410g) cans crushed tomatoes
2 tomato cans of water
1 cup white wine
Liquid pepper sauce
Salt to taste
1 lb (500g) fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup raw white rice
Heat oil in bottom of deep pot. Sauté onion, garlic, celery, bell pepper, okra and seasonings until onion is translucent. Add tomatoes, water, wine and liquid pepper sauce (3 shakes of bottle for mild…more if you can stand it!). Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, stirring regularly as liquid reduces by half.
Begin cooking rice according to package directions.
Taste sauce and add salt as needed. When tomatoes have lost their bright redness and the sauce no longer smells primarily of tomatoes, continue cooking until your desired thickness is achieved. At that point, turn off the heat, add the shrimp, and stir to cover shrimp with the hot sauce. The residual heat will cook the shrimp without toughening them.
Spoon a bed of rice into a shallow bowl or deep plate and make a bit of a hollow in the centre. Fill hollow with Shrimp Creole and garnish with a sprig of celery leaf.
Photo by tvol, flickr