This recipe and photography was provided courtesy of local cookbook author and chef, Carla Snyder. Learn more about Carla and discover her recipes at Ravenouskitchen.com.
Break out the stretchy pants. It’s time to start planning your Mardi Gras party.
Mardi Gras isn’t just a rowdy party held annually in New Orleans. It’s French for “Fat Tuesday”, a day in the Catholic religion when you’re meant to indulge yourself with favorite foods before fasting for the next 40 days of Lent. As the story goes, in the time leading up to Lent, Christians would eat all the forbidden food left in their homes in order to be free of temptation. Lent begins the day after Mardi Gras and ends on Easter Sunday, another great day to put on the feedbag, but let’s stick with Mardi Gras for now.
Louisiana and New Orleans have rich food traditions dating back centuries blending French, Spanish, West African, Amerindian, Haitian, German, Italian as well as influences from the general cuisine of the Southern United States. If you’ve been lucky enough to visit, you’ve probably sampled dishes like jambalaya, etouffee, po’boy sandwiches, beignets and gumbo. The food is rich and flavorful, perfect for a holiday like Mardi Gras when people eat all they want of everything and anything… for just one day.
In honor of Mardi Gras, I developed a recipe for Shrimp Creole Stew, a one pan meal for easy clean up with flavors the whole family can enjoy. Creole and Cajun dishes are probably the most recognized in this region and though they do have many similarities, there are differences as well. Creole dishes usually incorporate tomatoes, but that is not always the case with Cajun recipes. Tomatoes or no, both cuisines can be spicy, but you can control that with the spice blend I’ve given you here. It’s not always easy to find Creole seasoning and when you do it can be too spicy for some, so I’ve provided one for you here to mix up and use not only in this dish, but whenever the mood strikes you. Make it spicy or mild to suit your family’s taste and don’t save it for only Creole dishes. It’s worth having around to make chicken, fish and vegetables more delicious every day of the week.
Shrimp is the star of this dish, but I couldn’t resist adding smoked sausage for extra rich flavor. Cooking the sausage in the stew before adding the shrimp allows the meat to flavor every inch of the dish, while adding the shrimp at the end guarantees that the shellfish doesn’t over cook and become tough. The green bell pepper, onion and celery are the holy Trinity of Louisiana cooking and many soups and stews from the region start with those three vegetables, but you can always throw in some red bell pepper and carrots for color if you’re inclined.
So, make like New Orleans favorite son Emeril Lagasse and cook up this Creole stew to celebrate the big day. You might even be inclined shout BAM once or twice for fun and who knows… it just might make it taste even better.
Shrimp Creole Stew
Start-to-Finish: 50 minutes
Hands-On Time: 25 minutes
Serves 4 to 6
Fat Tuesday is a day to indulge, and this is the perfect dinner to set the tone. Rich with smoked sausage and shrimp, but not so heavy that you won’t have room for a Cajun coffee after dinner (see recipe below.)
It’s that easy: You probably have most of the ingredients to make this Creole seasoning in your spice cupboard. I love spice blends because they save me time. It’s so much easier to add a few teaspoons of 1 blend instead of 4 or 5 quarter teaspoons of various spices, plus a blend can be custom-made to suit your tastes. Really love garlic? Add more. Not a fan of heat? Add less cayenne. Be the boss of your spice cabinet and use the recipe below as a guide.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 green bell pepper
- 1 medium onion
- 1 stalk celery
- 1 tablespoon Creole seasoning (see below)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 14-oz can diced fire roasted or diced tomatoes
- 8-oz can tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon hot sauce or to taste
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 8-oz smoked sausage, sliced
- 1-lb peeled and deveined medium shrimp
- Hot rice as an accompaniment
- Thinly sliced green onions as garnish
- On a large cutting board, mince the garlic, dice the pepper and onion and thinly slice the celery.
- Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. When the oil shimmers, add the vegetables, Creole seasoning, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables start to soften, about 4 minutes.
- Add the broth, tomatoes, tomato sauce, hot sauce, Worcestershire, sugar and sausage and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes to blend flavors.
- Stir in the shrimp, cover and cook another 3 minutes or until the shrimp is cooked and opaque. Taste for seasoning and adjust with more salt, pepper or Creole seasoning.
- Divide the hot rice among shallow bowls and top with Creole stew. Garnish with green onions.
- 4 tablespoons paprika
- 3 tablespoons Italian seasoning
- 2 tablespoons onion powder
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon white pepper
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (adjust to suit taste buds)
- Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well. Store in a tightly closed container for up to 6 months. You can use this spice blend on just about anything, so don’t be shy and sprinkle away on roasted vegetables, fish, meats and poultry.
Cajun coffee is a tasty way to end this bayou-inspired meal. You want to use a French roast style coffee for that dark, rich flavor true coffee lovers enjoy.
- 4 cups freshly brewed dark roast coffee
- 8 tablespoons molasses
- 8 tablespoons dark rum
- Whipped cream
- Stir together the coffee and molasses in a pan over medium heat until molasses dissolves.
- Divide coffee between 4 mugs adding 2 tablespoons run to each mug.
- Garnish each mug with whipped cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg.
- Sip away.