My husband spent his formative years in the Cajun capital of the world, Lafayette, La. The first time I went there, in addition to being completely enamored with the food and the accents, I was struck by a couple of things.
First, they don’t serve ginger ale in bars, though I did have a fine southern gentleman, Grayson, do his darndest to try and replicate it for me (7-Up with a dash of Coca-Cola). Second, Cajun men are serious about their cooking. I’m sure that Cajun women are, too, but I seemed to only have met Cajun male foodies (though I’m quiet certain they would frown at such a label).
Case in point, my husband has a friend name John. He is a rather solid, gruff guy, usually with a cigarette in one hand and a whiskey in the other. We had joined him for a drink in a bar before he and some other friends were heading to a late night party. John was getting a little agitated.
Someone asked him what he was worried about. He said, “May y’all, we got to go. The locks broke on my truck and I got some shrimp stew in there. That’s a good pot of stew, someone might steal it.”
I like this for a many reasons. One, I love the fact that John was bringing shrimp stew to a party. This wasn’t a dinner party; this was your average party where most people bring beer. Cajuns apparently bring food. Two, John wasn’t concerned that someone might steal his radio, or make off with his truck; he was concerned about his shrimp stew.
When I first heard of shrimp stew, I pictured a beef stew with carrots, onions and potatoes made with shrimp instead of beef. That thought really didn’t excite me too much. This spicy, peppery stew does excite me!
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 medium onion, chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped green bell peppers
1 cup shrimp or seafood stock
3/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 1/4 pounds peeled and deveined large shrimp
1/3 cup chopped scallions
Cooked rice (enough for 4 servings)
- Make a light roux by stirring together oil (or butter) and flour in a heavy skillet. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly until roux is the color of light milk chocolate, 10 to 12 minutes. Don’t let it burn, or you’ll have to start over again.
- Add onion, celery and bell peppers and cook. Keep stirring, until bell peppers are softened, about 8 minutes. Stir in stock, water, salt, pepper and cayenne and simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is thickened, about 8 to 10 minutes.
- Add shrimp and simmer, stirring occasionally, until shrimp is bright pink and cooked through, only about 3 to 4 minutes.
- Top with scallions. Salt and pepper to taste.
Serve over rice. Serves four.