Shrimp Creole two ways, with fresh tomatoes

Published 7:00 am Sunday, July 2, 2017

One of the first dishes I learned to cook, as a new homemaker, was Shrimp Creole. Coming from a rural farming background, I had a limited range of cooking options. They were helped by an early wedding gift, Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book, but I used that mostly for cake and cookie making. So, when a friend served us Shrimp Creole for dinner, I asked for the recipe. (At that time, I was repeating the same menu every week: country fried steak on Monday, fried pork chops on Tuesday, meat loaf on Wednesday — you begin to see a pattern here …) The recipe could not have been easier and I made it with some regularity. Served over white rice, it became a staple in my still limited repertoire. Here is the original — and still good — recipe:

Shrimp Creole
1/2 pound bacon
2 No. 2 cans tomatoes
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 pounds raw shrimp, peeled and deveined.
Cut bacon in small pieces and brown in deep pan. Drain off fat and add remaining ingredients, except shrimp. Simmer over low flame for 30 minutes. Add shrimp, and cook 3 or 4 minutes, till shrimp turn pink. Serve on bed of white rice.
A more complex recipe for Shrimp Creole appears in an early version of Savannah’s Pirates’ House Cook Book. It is certainly an improvement over my rather bland one. First, you make a Creole Sauce, as below.

Creole Sauce
1/4 pound bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 8 oz. bottle clam juice
1 cup chicken broth
1 l-lb. can tomato puree
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon fresh or freeze-dried chives
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Dash Worcestershire sauce
Fry bacon in heavy pot. Add onion, garlic, celery and bell pepper and cook until onion is translucent. Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened, 30 to 45 minutes. When Creole Sauce is desired thickness, add shrimp and simmer until just cooked, about 5 minutes. Serve on white rice or (their recipe for) red rice.

It’s July and tomatoes are in abundance, so if I were making Creole this week, I would use the Pirates’ House recipe, with these changes: Instead of the canned tomatoes, I would buy a dozen tomatoes at a local market, remove the skins and chop them into bite size pieces before adding them to the mixture. Fresh food is simply better: better tasting, better for retaining the nutrients needed in our diets. Also, instead of a bed of white rice, I would cook a recipe of white rice, and separately cook ½ cup wild rice — the real thing, not Uncle Ben’s mix — and after cooking, combine the two. This would make a pretty presentation. More importantly, there are vitamins in wild rice that we do not get in the white that most of us consume.
Shrimp Creole is a tasty dish, and is especially appropriate when serving those who do not eat red meat. Serve this with a good green salad, some warm French bread, and perhaps a cool glass of Chardonnay or some other white wine and you have a perfect meal. (In the summer, homemade lemonade is always a nice alternative.)
NOTE: For the reader looking for a syrup candy recipe, I have been loaned two books with serious instructions. They will be published when the temperatures outside begin to drop a bit  around cane grinding time; say, September?

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at