Aug. 29 marked the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, one of the most devastating and far-reaching natural disasters in our nation’s history. The storm absolutely ravaged the Gulf Coast, leaving a path of destruction like no other before or since.
My husband, Bill, is from New Orleans, and we will be traveling there this month for a week’s vacation with our great friends Janna and Eric Erickson.
It’s always difficult returning to your hometown and seeing all of the changes since your last visit. It’s particularly hard for Bill, with memories tinged with gold of his growing up in this great city.
One of the things that remains iconic and legendary is the restaurant scene in New Orleans. We have our old time favorites, but there are always new discoveries waiting for us. It’s hard to get a bad meal in New Orleans -- some are just better and more noteworthy ($$$$) than others.
It will be good getting together with old friends and making memories that will have to last us until our next visit.
In celebration of our upcoming vacation, I’m always eager (who me?!) to get into the kitchen and cook up some great Louisiana dishes. From the “Big Easy” to back roads and bayous, there’s plenty of great food to choose from.
My recipe for Shrimp Creole combines my love of Creole cuisine with using fresh local produce and fresh wild-caught Georgia shrimp. The shrimp have been really running full this summer. These guys are so big and so flavorful.
Of key importance to making my Shrimp Creole is first making a really great shrimp stock to be used in the recipe. Yes, I know it’s much easier to buy the already-peeled and deveined shrimp, but when you do so you’re missing the key ingredient to making the shrimp stock -- the shells. You’ll need the shrimp shells (and heads, too, if you buy whole shrimp) to make the stock.
Making stock is as simple as combining the shells along with the vegetable trimmings -- from the vegetables that will be used in the recipe -- along with some herbs and spices and letting them simmer together for at least an hour. After straining the stock, you have the magic ingredient to making perfectly flavored Shrimp Creole.
We like to serve ours over steamed rice. Complete the meal with some hot crusty French bread (and real butter, of course) and a simple green salad. But as anyone knows, to “complete” the meal we need a great dessert. Gotcha covered!
Bananas Foster Flambe is the perfect answer. If you’ve never made Bananas Foster, it’s really simple and impressive. Serve it over vanilla bean ice cream and enjoy this fabulous New Orleans classic. Laissez les bon temps roule -- let the good times roll!
Bell pepper trimmings
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 star anise, optional (adds really great flavor to all homemade stocks)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup butter
2 cups medium-diced onion
1 cup thinly-sliced celery
1 large bell pepper, medium dice
3-4 cloves minced garlic
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 (15-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 cups prepared shrimp stock
2 bay leaves
Creole Seasoning Blend (such as Tony Chachere’s), to taste
1 1/2 or 2 pounds fresh wild-caught Georgia shrimp
Sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
Freshly grated zest from 1 lemon
Shrimp Stock: Combine all stock ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and let simmer at least 1 hour. Strain solids and discard. Set stock aside for use in recipe.
In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, sauté half of the onions, half of the celery and half of the bell peppers until crisp tender. Add the garlic and sauté briefly. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for a few minutes.
Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce, blending into the vegetable mixture. Stir in the shrimp stock. Add the bay leaves and Creole seasoning blend.
Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for at least 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining onions, celery and bell pepper. Bring back to a boil. Add shrimp and stir into the sauce. Cook just until the shrimp are done, only a few minutes.
Right before serving, stir in the parsley, green onion and lemon zest. Check seasoning and add salt and pepper and more Creole seasoning if desired. Serve hot over rice.
Bananas Foster Flambe
4 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup (packed) brown sugar
1/4 cup banana liqueur
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 medium bananas, sliced on the diagonal
1/4 cup rum
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Spear the lemon half with a fork. In a large, deep skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in sugar, banana liqueur and vanilla. When mixture begins to boil, add the bananas to the skillet. Cook for only 1-2 minutes, bathing the bananas with the sauce while cooking.
Add the rum, but do not stir into the sauce. Ignite the rum and sprinkle the cinnamon into the flame -- watch the sparks fly! Once the flame dies away, stir the sauce.
Let cool and bit and serve over ice cream, poundcake or both!