Let the good times roll with this spicy New Orleans classic
Mardi Gras – aka Fat Tuesday – is next week. And you know what that means, right?
Even if you don’t have much time to cook, you can whip up the perfect dish. Shrimp Creole (a classic dish made all over Louisiana) is extremely fast to put together.
Which works for us. Because less time in the kitchen means more time to eat and drink. And party!
Recipe: Quick and Easy Shrimp Creole
For Shrimp Creole, you first need to make a spicy tomato sauce. Then cook the shrimp in the sauce until done (this takes mere minutes). Most people serve the dish on a bed of white rice, though you can substitute brown rice if you prefer. Or you could even use Polenta or Grits.
You could make a long-cooking tomato sauce for Shrimp Creole (and some cooks do this). But we prefer a quicker sauce, one that cooks in 15 minutes or so. It tastes fresher to us – and it’s a lot easier, too.
Prep time for this dish is about 10 minutes. Cooking time adds another 30 minutes or so.
This recipe yields 4 servings, but It’s an easy dish to scale up or down.
Leftovers keep for a day or two if refrigerated in an airtight container.
- 1 cup uncooked white rice (see Notes)
- 2 medium onions (about 1½ cups, diced)
- 1 green or red bell pepper (use roughly half as much bell pepper as onion)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
- salt to taste (about ½ teaspoon kosher salt for us; see Notes)
- 2 cloves garlic
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme (or to taste; we prefer a bit more)
- ~1 tablespoon Hungarian sweet paprika (to taste)
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
- ¾ cup dry white wine (may substitute dry vermouth; or you could use shrimp or chicken stock)
- 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 to 1½ pounds frozen shrimp (deveined and shelled), thawed or not (to taste; see Notes)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped green scallion rounds for garnish (optional)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley for garnish (optional)
- The rice generally takes the longer to cook than any other part of this dish. So start it first (prepare according to package directions). If the rice finishes before the shrimp is done cooking, just let it rest for a few minutes – it’ll be fine.
- Peel the onion and cut it into dice of about ½ inch. Wash the bell pepper, dry it, then core it. Cut it into dice of about ½ inch.
- Heat a large frying pan on medium stovetop heat. When hot, add the oil or butter. When heated (it’ll shimmer), add the chopped onion and bell pepper. Add salt to taste. Sauté for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, peel the garlic and mince it or cut it into thin slices.
- Add the chopped garlic to the onion after it’s cooked for 5 minutes. Sauté for 1 additional minute.
- Add the spices (thyme, paprika, black pepper, and cayenne pepper) to the onion and garlic mixture, then stir to combine. Cook for 1 additional minute.
- Add the wine and cook until it has reduced by about half (5 minutes or so).
- Add the canned tomatoes and mix in. Reduce the heat to a simmer, then cook the sauce for 10 to 15 minutes – until most of the liquid has evaporated.
- Add the shrimp to the tomato sauce and cover the frying pan. Cook until done (how long this takes will depend on the size of the shrimp). Shrimp is done when it’s nicely pink and firm to the touch. Cooking usually takes about 2 to 3 minutes for thawed shrimp, but sometimes twice that long for frozen shrimp.
- Serve the Shrimp Creole: Spoon rice onto each plate, then ladle shrimp and sauce over it. Garnish with a sprinkle of chopped green scallions and/or Italian parsley.
- Want to brighten up the flavor of the tomato sauce? Stir in a tablespoon or two of fresh lemon juice right before serving.
- We like to add a bit of hot sauce (such as Tabasco or Crystal) to Shrimp Creole. We usually put a bottle of hot sauce on the table so that diners can add more heat if they wish.
- In many parts of the country (including ours), shrimp sold as “fresh” often arrive at the supermarket in a frozen state. So we tend to skip the “fresh” ones and buy shrimp from the freezer case.
- Shrimp often retain higher quality anyway if they’re IQF (individually quick frozen). IQF shrimp are “blast frozen” soon after they’ve been harvested, so most of their flavor remains intact.
- For this dish, we used frozen, deveined shrimp that had been shelled and had the tails removed (but you could also use tail-on shrimp if you prefer).
- If you’re using fresh shrimp, you’ll probably want to devein them (the dark line that runs along the top of each shrimp is its intestinal tract, or “vein”). If you’re buying fresh shrimp, you probably already know how to deal with them, but here’s a brief recap of the procedure (we always buy fresh shrimp in the shell, with the heads attached): First, pull off the head and legs. Then, starting at the end where the head was, pull off the outer shell (I usually leave the bit at the tail end attached). To devein, use a small knife and cut a slit down the shrimp’s back, maybe ¼ inch deep. Then use the knife to remove the vein.
- Where possible, we recommend buying shrimp harvested from the Gulf of Mexico. They have the best flavor, in our opinion. And Shrimp Creole is a Louisiana dish, so Gulf shrimp are perfect for it.
- Shrimp are sold by “count per pound.” So you’ll often see numbers like 21-25 or 36-50 (that refers to the approximate number of shrimp per pound). Whatever size you buy, we suggest using 4 to 6 ounces per serving.
- Not a fan of shrimp? You can make Chicken Creole instead: Season some boneless chicken pieces with salt or pepper, then brown them in hot oil. Set the chicken pieces aside. Then proceed with the recipe (using the same frying pan that you used to brown the chicken). Add the browned chicken pieces back to the frying pan when you add the tomato in Step 8, then cook for about 20 minutes (or until the chicken is thoroughly done).
- White rice is traditional for this recipe, and we recommend using either the long-grain or converted varieties. One cup uncooked rice makes about 3 cups when cooked. This may yield too much if you don’t want large servings of rice. If so, you might want to reduce the amount of rice to ¾ cup uncooked.
- Onion, bell pepper, and celery are the traditional “trinity” of Louisiana cooking. We’ve omitted the celery in this dish because we think it tastes better without. But add some if you like (use about the same amount of celery as bell pepper).
- Adjust the spices in this dish to your taste. As written, the recipe is a bit on the spicy side. Use less cayenne pepper if you’re sensitive to heat.
- We use kosher salt for cooking. This is coarser than regular table salt, so it doesn’t seem as “salty” by volume. If you’re using regular table salt, use about half of what we suggest. But, as always, season to your taste, not ours.
- Shrimp Creole is, as the name suggests, a Creole dish (not Cajun). What’s the difference between the two? “Creole” refers to the original European settlers of Louisiana, especially those from France and Spain. Cajuns are descendants of people who moved to Louisiana from French-speaking Acadia (located in what are now the Canadian Maritimes).
- In general, Cajun food tends to be more rustic, while Creole food is more European-influenced. Creole dishes tend to be fancier – which is why they’re so commonly found on New Orleans restaurant menus.
Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler
“Délicieux,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Perfect for Mardi Gras.”
“But it’s so hard to choose,” I said. “Which is better, Shrimp Creole or Chicken and Andouille Gumbo?”
“Don’t forget Red Beans and Rice,” said Mrs K R. “Not to mention Red Beans and Rice Soup.”
“Excellent dishes all,” I said. “But then we have to decide what to drink. There’s that New Orleans original, The Vieux Carré Cocktail. But who can resist a Sazerac? Decisions, decisions.”
“I kind of favor the Hurricane Cocktail,” said Mrs K R. “Although the Milk Punch is a popular New Orleans tipple, too. We could even have a Planter’s Punch. It’s a Tiki drink, but they sip plenty of them in New Orleans.”
“Maybe we should try all these eats and drinks!” I said. “After all, Mardi Gras only comes around once a year.”
“Well,” said Mrs K R. “Consume all of that and you’ll definitely put the Fat into Tuesday.”
Mrs K R, always the voice of reason. Dang.
You may also enjoy reading about:
Chicken and Andouille Gumbo
Red Beans and Rice
Red Beans and Rice Soup
The Vieux Carré Cocktail
Or check out the index for more recipes