In July, I visited Louisiana and hit the highway to head out to the city of Houma, the heart of Cajun country. While I was there, I did what any self-respecting foodie would do–I bought a suitcase full of authentic spices, hand-blended and packaged right on the bayou. Filé powder, Creole seasoning (used in this recipe), seafood boil–you name it, I bought it.
All those wonderful, aromatic spices have been collecting dust on my spice rack since I returned. Truthfully, I really didn’t need everything I purchased, but who could pass up those spice blends?
So, in this recipe I put some of those seasonings to good use to create a sublime rendition of the treasured classic shrimp and grits. I will warn you, though; this recipe is a bit time-consuming and labor-intensive but the results are well worth the elbow grease.
Creole Shrimp and Polenta
(as adapted from a recipe by Emeril Lagasse)
Ingredients (for the shrimp and sauce):
3 pounds large Gulf shrimp, in their shells
2 tablespoons Creole seasoning
Cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup chopped onions
2 tablespoons minced garlic
3 bay leaves
3 lemons, peeled and sectioned
2 cups water
½ cup Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup dry white wine
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1. Peel the shrimp, leaving only their tails attached. Reserve the shells and set aside. Using a sharp paring knife, split the back of the shrimp and remove the vein. Sprinkle the shrimp with 1 tablespoon Creole seasoning and fresh cracked black pepper. Use your hands to coat the shrimp with the seasonings. Refrigerate the shrimp while you make the sauce base.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large pot over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the reserved shrimp shells, the remaining Creole seasoning, the bay leaves, lemons, water, Worcestershire, wine, salt, and black pepper. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, allow to cool for about 15 minutes. Strain into a small saucepan. There should be about 1½ cups. Place over high heat, bring to a boil, and cook until thick, syrupy, and dark brown, for about 15 minutes. Makes about 4 to 5 tablespoons of sauce base.
3. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the seasoned shrimp and sauté them, occasionally shaking the skillet, for 2 minutes. Add the cream and all of the sauce base. Stir and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove the shrimp to a warm platter with tongs and whisk the butter into the sauce. Remove from the heat. Spoon a large ladleful of polenta into a shallow bowl; mound shrimp on top. Spoon the sauce over the shrimp and around the plate. Garnish with chopped chives and parsley.
Ingredients (for the polenta):
2 cups of water
1 cup of chicken stock
1 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of corn meal
1. Add 1 cup of water and 1 teaspoon of salt to a large saucepan. Whisk in 1 cup of corn meal.
2. In a small pot, mix 1 cup of water and 1 cup of chicken stock over high heat; bring to a boil. Add boiling water/stock mixture to cornmeal. Heat the mixture on medium heat, stirring constantly for 15-20 minutes, or until desired consistency is reached; serve hot with shrimp.