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Maine shrimp Creole

Posted by Devra First  December 16, 2009 01:29 PM

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We're currently in the midst of Maine shrimp season. I think of these small, coral-colored creatures as the crawfish of New England: our own regional bugs, tasty and the right size to keep popping into your mouth over a beer or two. So it seems appropriate to insert them into etouffees, gumbos, and other Louisiana specialties. Here, I've used them in a shrimp Creole.

creole.jpg
This recipe is loosely adapted from chef John Besh's cookbook "My New Orleans." It is a wonderful book -- not just full of great recipes but of a real love for Louisiana's food. It conveys both the cultural importance and seasonality of the cuisine. And the photos are beautiful. Besh's recipe is influenced by New Orleans's Vietnamese community and includes lemongrass. I didn't use it only because I didn't want to buy a large amount for this one dish, but if you'd like to, mince a teaspoon or so and toss it with the shrimp when you season them with salt and pepper. The recipe also calls for overripe heirloom tomatoes, something we don't have a regional equivalent of at this time of year. I used canned San Marzanos instead.

Maine shrimp Creole
Serves 2-4

1 1/4-1 1/2 pounds Maine shrimp, peeled
Salt and pepper, to taste
Olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 stalk celery, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
1 bay leaf
Pinch ground allspice
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Leaves from 1 branch of basil, chopped
Leaves from 1 sprig of mint, chopped
Sugar, if needed


1. Put the shrimp in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. In a skillet over a medium flame, heat enough olive oil to thinly coat the bottom. Saute shrimp 1-1 1/2 minutes, until almost cooked through. Remove the shrimp from the pan and set aside.

2. In the same skillet with the shrimp juices, add a bit more oil if necessary and saute the onion, garlic, celery, and green pepper for about 2 minutes.

3. Add the tomatoes, reduce to medium-low, and bring to a simmer. Add the bay leaf, allspice, and red pepper flakes and simmer for 10 minutes.

4. Return the shrimp to the skillet and add basil and mint. Cook 1 or 2 minutes longer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If the sauce is too tart, add a pinch of sugar. Remove the bay leaf and serve over rice.


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Sheryl Julian, the Globe's Food Editor, writes regularly for the Food section.

Devra First is the Globe's food reporter and restaurant critic. Her reviews appear weekly in the Food section.

Ellen Bhang reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe and writes about wine.
 

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