Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Farewell Cooking Tour: Shrimp Creole and Cornbread

As the countdown to the big move reached its final week, it was time to kick-off one last series of adventures in H-town. In order to make the last week as memorable as possible, I was gonna need a new kitchen, and my cousin Melissa presented the perfect opportunity. After years of being a neglectful relative, it was time for me to suck it up and drive out to suburbia for one final family catch-up session.  After two decades of gathering over our grandmother's incomparable cooking, the pressure was now on, and I was going to have to win Melissa, Kevin, Ryan, and Olivia over with the Cajun food of our hometown (and teach Olivia what Cajun means).

Shrimp Creole
Modified from Emeril 
Servings: 6-8
Time: 1 hour
The smell of sauteing veggies in Cajun cooking always wins

4 oz butter or 1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 sweet onion, diced
1 white onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 orange bell pepper, diced
3-4 celery stalks, chopped
4 tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 tbsp tomato paste
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
Salt to taste
Cayenne to taste
Tony Chachere's to taste
1 tbsp dried oregano
Black pepper to taste
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Tabasco to taste
1 cup chicken broth
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 1/2 lbs large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Green onions, chopped for garnish
2 cups long grain white rice

  1. Melt the butter or heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. 
  2. Saute the onions, peppers, and celery.
  3. Season with salt and cayenne.
  4. Add the bay leaves, tomatoes, tomato paste, and garlic. Season with salt, cayenne, oregano, Tony Chachere's, and black pepper. Let cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Add in the chicken broth.
  6. Bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer then let reduce for 20 minutes.
  7. Splash in some Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco.
  8. Thicken the mix with flour. Let cook for 3 minutes while it thickens.
  9. Add in the shrimp and cook for 4 to 6 minutes until they turn orange and curl. Re-season to account for the shrimp.
  10. Serve over cooked long grain rice and top with green onions.
One big pot of deliciousness
I was immediately taken aback by how nice and sparkly their kitchen was (complete with gas stove and awesome island). I almost felt bad for the mess I was about to make, but I figured the Cajun food coma would be enough to compensate and give me the time I needed to escape the damage. Clearly, I had made a mistake not upping my family game sooner.  The shrimp creole required an absurd amount of chopping, but then there was just a lot of time to hang around the aforementioned glorious kitchen and exchange stories about dance lessons, vacations, cooking adventures, and future plans.

Once dinner was finally ready, we were treated to a great reminder of the good old days back in Louisiana. The Shrimp Creole was really all about the glorious shrimp, as it wasn't overpowered by tomato as is too often the case. All the fantastic peppers and spices came together for a big, bold dish that hit the spot.

Modified from All Recipes
Previously sort of seen Here
Servings: 12
Time: 30 minutes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3/4 can of corn, drained
Olivia- The world's most talented sous chef (and the pickiest eater)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  2. Convince a precocious 9 year old to do most of the work for you under the pretense of "teaching".
  3. Mix all the ingredients except for the corn together in a bowl until smooth. 
  4. Marvel that said child is far more skilled than you were at that age since no egg shell ended up in the mix.
  5. Stir the corn in well.
  6. Pour into a lightly greased baking pan.
  7. Bake for 18-24 minutes or until the toothpick test comes back clean and the top has nicely browned.
It is also acceptable to forgo the rice and just pour the Shrimp Creole directly on top of the cornbread.

This sweet cornbread has been a go to for me for the past 3 years (Hey, what do you know? That's just when I moved back to Houston!), and it continued to amaze. I mixed things up this time by adding in the actual corn for some texture and added flavor (an idea I stole from Robin), and the decision proved to be a winner. More impressive than the golden cornbread, however, were Olivia's skills in the kitchen. I made about 5 times the mess she did (all those dance classes must have really helped her coordination), and she provided a perfectly smooth batter primed for making awesome cornbread.

The night was definitely a success and well worth the drive. It was great sharing a nice home-cooked meal with family on a Sunday night. It's a shame we can't do it again anytime soon, but I'm so glad we got around to it.

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