Dinner On The Fly: Shrimp Creole with Wild Rice

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sometimes your husband "screws the pooch." In our house, this means he makes plans for dinner with us (The Fam) and then work intercedes and plans go to hell. Tonight's issue was we planned to go to dinner, so I didn't defrost anything or stop by the store. And yes I'm lazy and didn't want to go back out in the pouring rain with two small kids to get a box of spaghetti or the equivalent. So, determined to honor my laziness while refusing to cop out and order a pizza, I worked with what I had in the pantry and fridge and came up with Shrimp Creole over Wild Rice.
It ended up being a delicious dish and lesson for the kitchen: Always keep your fridge and pantry stocked with the basics in case an emergency pops up like this and you need to come up with something on the fly.
So what are the basic Pantry/Fridge Must Have's? Well, you need some boxed stock. Anything can be turned into a soup, so if all else fails chop and drop into a Dutch oven, cover with stock, let simmer and serve. I always keep a few boxes of different kinds -- chicken, vegetable, beef -- and work with those. Butter's another one. Butter, flour, and salt give you a basic crust. Now you've got a pastry you can stuff with anything, a base and topping for a pie, and if you add oats and sugar you've got a crumble. Keep it unsalted and in the freezer. Frozen shrimp is another. I like me some fresh shrimp, don't get me wrong; but some times we need a little help with last minute somethings and a bag of frozen shrimp thrown in a gumbo or creole as in this case will save your life. They defrost in warm water in 5 minutes -- much easier than chicken or beef! And always keep base ingredients in your fridge and pantry to make soups, stews, and dishes. I'm talking about aka The Trinity, The Solfreto, The Mirepoire. Specifically: onion, celery, bell pepper (doesn't matter what color), carrot, garlic. Always, always, always have these ingredients in your fridge and pantry. They stay forever if properly stored, and are the base for European and Latin cuisines, Creole, soups, stews, and various dishes alike.
In terms of canned stuff, I always keep a can of tomatoes, a can of tomato sauce, and a can of tomato paste. They can help thicken a soup or sauce and offer acidity and color to anything. I also keep some canned beans -- usually a can of cannelini, garbanso, and black beans -- to add to soups and salads.
If you're lucky enough to have a garden, then keep the basic herbs going year round as much as you can: parsley, rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano. They offer a fresh taste and color to any meal.
With these basics in your kitchen, you can make anything!

Well, that said, I searched through my "challenge" for the evening and came up with Shrimp Creole. A simple Trinity of onion, celery, and bell pepper served as my base. I used a can of tomato sauce and box of chicken broth for the sauce, some flour to thicken it, and frozen shrimp. Creole seasoning, a staple in my kitchen, and bay leaves brought the flavors home. Topped with some fresh parsley and we were good to go!

Shrimp Creole with Wild Rice
1 lb frozen shrimp -- defrosted, deveined and tails removed
1 small white onion, small chop
2 celery stalks, small chop
1 green bell pepper, small chop
4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp Creole seasoning
1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
1 can tomato sauce or chopped tomatoes
1 box chicken broth (or vegetable or seafood)
fresh parsley for garnish
1 cup wild rice
vegetable oil

Heat 3 cups of water into a saucepan. When it comes to a boil, add a pinch of salt and add the wild rice. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat, cover, and let simmer until water is aborbed and rice is plump about 35 minutes. While rice cooks, prepare the shrimp creole.

Drain shrimp very well and set aside.

Heat 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large pot. Add the onion, celery, and bell pepper, season with salt and pepper to taste, and saute on medium heat until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the flour and coat the vegetables well, then sprinkle with Creole seasoning. Add the tomato sauce and broth and bring to a boil. Make sure you stir the bottom of the pot so the flour and vegetables don't stick and burn; the liquid from the tomatoes and broth will help losen all that up for you.

Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and let simmer 10 minutes. Sauce will thicken slightly. Add the shrimp and cook for 4 minutes, or until cooked through and pink.

To serve, place some rice in the bottom of a bowl. Ladle the shrimp creole with generous sauce on top, and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve hot.


Christa Jeanne said...

What is the proper way to store bell peppers, carrots, celery, onions, etc. so they last forever? I always seem to get them for something but end up throwing away extras, and I hate wasting!

Mishy said...

The way I do it is I always put my veggies in individual ziplock bags. If there's any greenery attached (like with radishes) then I trim it off and place them in the bag. Other greens like swiss chard, kale, green onions can go in untrimmed. Peppers, carrots, celery, etc. can go in untrimmed also in their own bags. Another trick I do is if I have left over like a red bell pepper from cooking, I'll slice it up and place it in a sandwich baggie. For me it's an appetizing and obvious quick snack I can grab and go on my way out or snack on at home w/out having to bother cutting, plating, then cleaning. Make sense?