Cajun food is a lot like jazz. There are some basics but, there a lot of ad lib going on.
Some of the old recipes were designed to vary significantly depending on what you had on hand. For something like Jambalaya the rice and spices are constant but, it can be loaded up with anything from sausage, hamburger meat, shrimp, deer meat, etc. It's how a Mom could feed a lot of kids based on what's in the kitchen.
It's not hard to do, fun and you come up with some absolutely delicious stuff.
I'm going to take you through making Shrimp Creole. It takes about an hour and it looks and tastes great. It's a good recipe for company you like. They'll sure come back.
2 pounds shrimp- (peeled and de-veined works best as it skips a time-consuming chore. Thawed if frozen).
2 cups chicken broth
1 can Rotel
1 small can tomato paste
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/2 cup sliced green peppers
1/2 cup diced onions
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
(optional- a few green onions sliced)
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 a stick of butter
1 tablespoon creole seasoning
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
[salt & pepper to taste]
Start out by preparing your vegetables. Onions, green bell pepper and celery are the base for a number of creole dishes ranging from red beans & rice, étouffées, gumbo and others. Make sure your shrimp are ready to go. They need to be thawed out if they are frozen.
Next it is time to make the roux. Roux is a gravy base. It is the base of numerous Cajun recipes. Once you start cooking, it thickens up. Roux is easily done but you have to pay attention to it. If you burn it, it's wasted. Take the pot you are cooking in and apply medium heat. Melt a half stick of butter and then put in the flour- stirring frequently. At first, it will look like this:
As it cooks, it will smell very good. Stir it and keep stirring. Don't let it sit still. You don't want it to scorch. It will gradually darken to a peanut brown color (we call this a blond roux for étouffées). Eventually it will cook to a darker color like this:
When the roux is this color, it's ready. Now dump in your vegetables, garlic last. Continue stirring and sauté all of your vegetables in the roux. This takes about four or five minutes. Once the onions are translucent, add in two cups of chicken broth, 1 can of Rotel and the tomato paste. Add in your spices now. Stir this all together and make sure the paste dissolves good. Bring the pot to a hard boil and then reduce heat and simmer covered for thirty to forty-five minutes. It will look like this:
After simmering for at least a half hour, add in your shrimp and stir them up. Let it continue for another five minutes as the heat in the pot will cook the shrimp.
Remove the pot from heat and let stand 5 minutes.
Serve over rice. Pairs well with white wine, garlic bread and you can garnish it with fine chopped parsley.