Ridiculously easy shrimp creole

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Creole is city food; Cajun is country. The culinary history is steeped in politics.

“Cajun” is a corruption of “Acadian” and originates from British removal of French-Canadian colonists in the 1700s; many of these refugees settled in the swampy Acadiana region of southern Louisiana. They adapted to the environs, used the whole animal, and plenty of seasoning. Most dishes use a base of onions, celery and bell pepper - the “holy trinity” of Cajun cuisine - a nod to their French roots.

“Creole” refers to the descendants of French and Spanish settlers in New Orleans, and the cuisine was developed chiefly by slaves who did the cooking, and brought in their own African influences. Because of the “higher brow” nature of their environment, they had access to a wider range of ingredients, such as tomatoes, not typically found in Cajun dishes.*

“King Creole” refers to the 1958 Elvis Presley movie, claimed to be his favorite role. The title is the name of the only nightclub in New Orleans not owned by the local gangsters, and where Elvis’ character performs.
I don’t know what Elvis would think of this version of Shrimp Creole, from Patrick and Gina Neely (Food Network’s “Down Home with the Neelys”), because it includes neither bacon nor peanut butter. However, it is indeed ridiculously easy and bursting with flavor, and I think you will like it. And if you have the time to make a homemade shrimp stock from the shells of your fresh shrimp, it will really make this dish sing like Elvis.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 large onions, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 cups seafood stock or shrimp stock

1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, in thick puree

Dash Worcestershire sauce

Dash hot sauce

2 bay leaves

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds large shrimp (about 32), shelled and deveined

4 tablespoons green onions, sliced for garnish

Directions

Heat a large heavy Dutch oven over medium heat. Add oil. Cook garlic, onions, celery, and green bell peppers. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in cayenne and let caramelize. Add the seafood stock, tomatoes, Worcestershire, hot sauce, and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 35 minutes. Add shrimp and cook about 4 more minutes, until they are bright pink and cooked through. Garnish with green onions. Often served over long-grained white rice.

Enjoy, and toast to the future. As Elvis serenaded Dolores Hart at the end of King Creole:

“Let’s think of the future, Forget the past, You’re not my first love, But you’re my last, Take the love that I bring, Then I’ll have everything, As long as I have you.”

*Thank you Jay D. Ducotte for the history lesson.

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Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht & Roumel PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and wrote a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor. Follow him at @nickroumel.
 

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